These plays are totally ridiculous

From 1970, the second production of “Kitchenette.” L to R: Mary Woronov, Fred Savage, Harvey Fierstein and Mary McCormick.    Photo by Norman Glick
From 1970, the second production of “Kitchenette.” L to R: Mary Woronov, Fred Savage, Harvey Fierstein and Mary McCormick. Photo by Norman Glick

In 1965, Ronald Tavel went from pitchman to playwright to papa of a new theatrical genre — when Andy Warhol took a look at the 22 scenarios he drafted for 16mm film adaptation by The Factory and suggested they be presented on the stage instead. Tavel recruited his younger brother Harvey to direct, then penned this brief, brilliant, self-prophesizing manifesto: “We have passed beyond the Absurd, our position is totally Ridiculous!”

Just under a half-century later, two works from the Theatre of the Ridiculous (“Two by Tavel”) are being directed by Norman Glick. A founding member whose collaboration with the Brooklyn-born Tavels predates that pivotal Warhol moment, Glick was involved in most of the brothers’ productions (he acted, stage managed and house managed for the movement and, even more notably, built its Theatre of the Lost Continent in the Jane West Hotel).

“It is a great honor for me to dedicate these two one-act gems to the memory of the wonderful Harvey Tavel [1937-2013]. He was my husband for four years, my family for decades,” says Glick, to whom Harvey Fierstein wrote, “Without Harvey [Tavel], there would have been no Ronald Tavel [1936-2009], no Harvey Fierstein, no Theatre of the Ridiculous and The Lost Continent and so much more.”

The cast for “Life of Juanita Castro” includes Agosto Machado and Ruby Lynn Reyner — two vets of the movement who play, respectively, Juanita and Fidel Castro. “Life” finds that brother and sister, along with Che Guevara (Jorge Acosta) and Raul Castro (Kika Child), posing for a portrait as a director (fittingly played by Glick) feeds them lines from the script, which they butcher to comedic effect. Glick breaks with the original production by having Che Guevara played as a flamboyant gay man. Otherwise, it’s true to the Ridiculous movement’s traditional cross-gender casting.

In other casting news, actors Jorge Acosta, Kika Child, Richard Craven and Eva Dorrepaal are new to the Tavel canon. Together, they revive “Kitchenette” — in which Mikie frets over a litter basket while Jo applies her makeup. When they’re joined by a similarly named street hustler and blond bombshell, psychosexual ridiculousness ensues — occasionally at the instruction of a filmmaker who inserts himself into the kitchen sink drama.

Confused? Intrigued? Show up prepared (and only slightly less perplexed) by visiting ronaldtavel.com. Maintained by Glick, it has Tavel’s body of work in PDF form.

“Two by Tavel” is performed Nov. 28–Dec. 14. Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 3 p.m. At Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., btw. E. 9th & 10th Sts.). Tickets: $10. Call 212-254-1109 or visit theaterforthenewcity.net. Also visit jsnyc.com/season/glick.htm.

Scott Stiffler