Standing in line to catch Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers may be all some people remember of October 25 years ago (as much as they try to forget). Others, however, will recall Halloween 1989 was the last time Cookie Mueller, a star featured in many of John Waters' early films, would celebrate her beloved gay high holy day.
Her "Ask Dr. Mueller" column for the East Village Eye made her a permanent fixture of Greenwich Village culture, and Mickey Bolmer's experimental new play BACK: A Tragedy Party celebrates Mueller, the artistic, brave denizens of 1989 Greenwich Village, and Halloween in a frenzy of bohemianism.
BACK features a handful of Villagers cum partygoers--costumed as Aaron Burr, George Harris III/Hibiscus, David Wojnarowicz, Walt Whitman, Frank O'Hara, Nan Goldin, and Berenice Abbott--spending one last evening with a sick and dying Mueller who may be looking to stall or stop time herself. Like Mueller, "the Greenwich Village people in BACK are sick, dying, grieving, and they made costumes and went out for Halloween," Bolmer tells Out. "For reasons of their own, they picked some of the Village people who have changed the world, all gay and lesbian. Except for Aaron Burr, who gets to wear a great coat, wig, and tight pants: 18th-century drag."
While waiting to enter a bar on Varick Street, these lively characters act out two of three short plays, drawn at random, that vary in style from a fever dream-like, performance art-inspired piece (COOKIE), to more classical theater (AARON), as well as the more cinematic (FRANK). Each narrative is connected to one another by both place and, as Bolmer points out, "questions of fate." In COOKIE, characters ask, "Why am I alive, not my lover?" and "Why do I die, not my lover?" These sentiments are equally true of plagues: "AIDS in COOKIE, small pox in AARON, and war (Revolutionary in AARON, WWII in FRANK, and the Trojan War in COOKIE," as Bolmer explains. Got all that?
With its heavy themes, it may not leave audiences as giddy as the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, but BACK is sure to rejuvenate one's mind and spirit with its artistry. From the free drink for every purchased ticket to the always-on cast, there's always a festive atmosphere during the the show, mingling with intellectual material.
"I hope BACK will be an invitation for audiences to have a conversation with themselves, friends, lovers, neighbors," Bolmer says. "Along with [inspiring] a curiosity about the people, places, and times around us."
BACK: A Party Tragedy: through Oct. 31 at the cell, 338 W. 23rd St., New York City.
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