HOT BUTTERED ROLL, Rococo Rodeo, at Live Bait Theater. A frustrating curiosity from 1963, Rosalyn Drexler's play is intensely performed in this Rococo Rodeo production but dramatically inert. In Hot Buttered Roll, a poor man's American Buffalo, three lowlifes plot, then perpetrate a kinky scam against a rich, paralyzed old geezer.
The play is intriguing only in its origins. Associated with the off-off-Broadway experimentation pioneered at the Caffe Cino, Drexler was molded by the Actors' Studio and the expressionistic excesses of Living Theatre's Judith Malina and Julian Beck. But judging from Hot Buttered Roll, Drexler's talent doesn't match that of her influences. This hour-long work leadenly contrasts the cunning billionaire Corrupt Savage (Howard Hughes?) with the cackling cartoon imbeciles who covet his treasure--a dominatrix-nurse, a burlesque bimbo, and a dumber-than-air thug who tries to get the wealthy codger to adopt him.
Surrounded by porn magazines and confessing into his tape recorder, Savage is a Beckettian recluse, a suitable gull for the predators around him. At the hammy center of Rococo Rodeo's inexplicable revival is Tim O'Shea's Savage, who suggests a cross between the pompous Master Thespian on Saturday Night Live and Dudley Moore. But who knows? His character's climactic tape-recorded speech was muffled by the speakers: the ending made no sense. And perhaps it doesn't in Drexler's script either, but Rococo Rodeo's mystified audiences will never know for sure. All they get is a long joke with no punch line. Sloppy and seemingly improvised, Kenn L.D. Frandsen's staging is stuck in dead-end caricatures and random ranting.