By Eliza Bent; Directed by Kevin Laibson
Produced by Caroline Gart and Charlie O'Leary with the support of New Georges
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 11.14.15
Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street
by Mateus Ciucci Ferreira on 11.3.15
Alaina Ferris and Eliza Bent in Toilet Fire. Photo by Knud Adams.
BOTTOM LINE: A holey theatrical experience about the most human need of all: the need to poop.
We come in to the theater and are already struck by a stunning yet simple religious altar. Rolled down toilet paper rolls create a white, flowing two-ply backdrop. The Book of Revelations sits comfortably between two fluffy toilet seat covers. The evening's service is dedicated to Our Lord Gourd, Cheez-it and Rice. The church of Blerch of Our Blight is about to begin the Keester Service celebration, and spearheading the ceremony is the Peest (the first of Eliza Bent's many faces) accompanied by Cantor Alaina, an assistant with angelical musical talents (Alaina Ferris).
Structured like a Catholic Mass, this one-woman show with a kick-ass side-kick explores the humanizing link present in an activity most of us are uncomfortable talking openly about. Through (re)readings of The Book of Revelations, riffs on the Holey Scriptures, and a plethora of characters from all corners of the world that come forth during Conflushions—Patricia and Bonnie (Eliza's alter-egos played with mastery and easiness) were the highlights of the evening—we witness a full-fledged Institution with a message and a purpose. Indeed, the entire congregation serves as the entryway for those who are secretly enjoying the evening but still can't seem to shake off the nervousness brought about by the candid tone with which the main subject is treated.
Almost a three part show, Toilet Fire begins as a comedy skit, morphs into a series of short stand-up narratives, and ends on a rather sweet and intimate note. Here, Eliza Bent herself comes forth and opens up to us about the duality of being raised Catholic while culturally relating with Judaism. Bent, herself a person with stomach problems (the would-be character flaw that humanizes her), draws from her experiences to create an almost transcendental evening that flirts often with the theological and the philosophical without compromising its comedic bluntness.
Rich in details, intelligent word puns, and a clever appropriation of the sacred, Toilet Fire constitutes a unique show that deserves a lively and generous audience. And although Eliza's effortless performance commands the evening, Toilet Fire is truly an ensemble piece. Her comedic time is made sharper with the punctual dialog with the slide projection operated by Anthony Jackson. Praise must be further given to Christopher Browser for the attention put into the set design as well as his effective work with the lighting. Enver Chakartash curates a kitsch and therefore extremely appropriate costume selection, while director Kevin Laibson creates a seamless flow, knowing both how to explore Toilet Fire's pace and timing and when to reveal its lyrical moments. Brought on by the music performed live during the show, said moments fall under the able fingers, crystal-clear tone and naive, enchanted-like demeanor of the skilled Alaina Ferris.
Toilet Fire: Rectums in the Rectory falls under the category of those great and enticing comedies that successfully amuse us while unearthing the dirty and the undeniable in all of us. A probiotic show, it should most definitely be seen with friends and family, especially those with constipated spontaneity and laughter.
(Toilet Fire: Rectums in the Rectory plays at the Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street, through November 14, 2015. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, with an additional performance Wednesday 11/11 at 8. Tickets are $15 and are available at abronsartscenter.org or by calling 212.598.0400.)
Toilet Fire: Rectums in the Rectory is written and performed by Eliza Bent. It is directed by Kevin Laibson. Music, piano, and voice are by Alaina Ferris. Dramatur(d)gy is by Jess Barbagallo. Set and lights are by Christopher Bowser, costumes are by Enver Chakartash, and projections are by Anthony Jackson. Stage management and assistant direction are by Nic Adams. It is produced by Caroline Gart and associate produced by Charlie O'Leary.