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BAD HAIR DAY

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Four weeks of eternal damnation at The Brick Theater’s Hell Festival continued on Aug. 2 with "The Iron Wig," written and directed by Jonathan Valuckas.

Set in a penthouse apartment (simply evoked by two easy chairs), "The Iron Wig" relates the downfall of powerful CEO Martin Kane (Hector Coris), who one day looks at himself in the mirror, notices he is losing his hair, and locks himself in his bedroom, refusing to come out until his hairdresser, Pezzo Rodigliani (Andrew Deichman) administers a restorative treatment.

When Rodigliani arrives at the penthouse, he tells Kane’s factotum, Clark (Jesse Soursourian), the awful truth behind Kane’s panic: Kane is wearing a hairstyle invented by Rodigliani’s father centuries ago in which a highly personalized coiffure is "the spiritual impression of the personin hair."

In fact, Kane is really Wei Chi Yang, the transferred spirit of a Chinese warlord who lived 700 years ago. And it is his spirit that has transformed Kane, once a tough, street-smart punk, into one of the world’s most influential business moguls.

The problem is that now that his hairstyle is literally going to pieces, Kane (or rather Wei Chi Yang) will die with his hair. The plot unravels through some unexpected twists as Valuckas reveals the darker side of Rodigliani’s profession until the story comes to its very satisfying ending.

There’s a certain "Alice in Wonderland"-quality to "The Iron Wig." Just as Lewis Carroll did in his novel, Valuckas uses faux drama and whimsical fantasy to uncover the capricious and sometimes evil nature of power, and more importantly, how power is transferred.

Coris, who has distinguished himself as Rooster in "Annie" and Snoopy in "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown," both productions of Brooklyn Family Theatre, has a fine understanding of how to make evil-doers sympathetic.

Soursourian, as Rodigliani the elder, has both mastered the Italian accent and made the absurd meaningful and amusing.

Deichman, who played Linus in "You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown," has given up his blanket for a more sinister role. Indeed, with his lanky body, long blue robe and goatee, Deichman would have been a dead-ringer for the devil if he’d only sprouted horns.

Valuckas, who is also a board member and director with Brooklyn Family Theatre, says he wrote the play "on and off while doing shows."

"The play started out as the story of the Romanovs," he told GO Brooklyn. "I needed a way to convey the passing of power. But then I decided that, considering what happened to the Romanovs in the end, my story was a bit icky."

Valuckas admits that as the play evolved, it no longer fit in entirely with the Hell theme.

"The father started out much more demon-like," he explains. "More like Rasputin."

At 40 minutes, "The Iron Wig" is not much longer than your average television sit-com or sci-fi drama. And its sly humor, absurd plot and outlandish characters are certainly reminiscent of popular entertainment. But Valuckas has provided a good deal of meat beneath the generous seasoning of wit that makes this play so enjoyable.

In this age of executive machination of the markets, unbounded accumulation of wealth, and the formidable power wielded by multinational corporations, it seems not so far-fetched to imagine a supernatural power at work.

Even if you don’t think much of Ralph Nader, you’ll get a kick out of this show.

 

The Hell Festival continues through Aug. 22. The remaining "The Iron Wig" performances are Aug. 14 at 8:45 pm, Aug. 18 at 8:15 pm and Aug. 20 at 9:15 pm. Tickets: $10. All tickets are sold at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. The Brick Theater is located at 575 Metropolitan Ave. between Union Avenue and Lorimer Street in Williamsburg. For more information, call (718) 907-6189 or visit www.bricktheater.com.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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