Puppetry of the Penis, at the Lakeshore Theater. These "penis installations" are less theater or performance art than crass sideshow spectacle. Two naked Australian men, initially garbed in Elvis-inspired capes, stretch and twist their testicles, scrotums, and penises into shapes with a high gross-out or flinch factor: a hairy tongue, a hamburger in a bun, an Olympic torch complete with flame. There are even some "awwww"-inspiring ones, like a snail and a baby kangaroo in its pouch. A strangely mesmerizing blow-up of the proceedings on a giant screen details every bump and fold. The cast rotates, but the night I attended the performers were Simon Morley--one of the show's creators, who surveyed the crowd with a jaded carny stare--and Daniel Lewry, a puppyish goofball.
The show's charm quickly shrivels--50 minutes is a long time to watch balloon-animal tricks even when they're done with someone's genitals, especially if they're accompanied by limp patter. The last dick trick, however, must be one of the more bizarre images ever on a Chicago stage: Morley stretches his genitals into a Windsurfer-like sail, jumps on a skateboard wreathed in fog, and flies across the stage propelled by a portable fan.
More gratifying was the crowd warmer, local comic Patti Vasquez, a pregnant party girl who joked with a warm, easy charm about being drunk in women's restrooms, her Irish-Mexican heritage, and the differences between men and women.