KISS SHOT

writen by: Jim Neu
directed by: Keith McDermott
music by: Neal Kirkwood
set: Donald Eastman
lighting: Carol Mullins
costumes: Angela Wendt
with: Mary Schultz, Black Eyed Susan, Charles Alcroft, Bill Rice, Clio Young & Jim Neu
and: The Rhonda Fleming Society: Lavinia Co-op, Ron Jones, Terrell Robinson, Agosto Machado, Mary Tepper & Ulla Dydo

performance schedule:
April 4th - 21st, 2002
Thursday - Sunday at 8:00pm
The First Floor Theatre
$15.00


"Kiss Shot," a new musical comedy by Jim Neu, is set in the near future in Los Angeles where film noir has taken over as the dominant everyday lifestyle. The lingua franca is right out of a Raymond Chandler novel and events evolve cinematically. Thanks to palm pilot technology, every citizen packs a "personal portable sound system," so he/she can break into song with appropriate backup music on impulse. The result is an affectingly stylish and zany play with music in which Lips Green (Mary Shultz), an unknown saxophonist and small-time criminal, sets out to shake down the Hollywood powers-that-be over a film clip of two '50s male film icons behaving, well, badly together.

To do so she's got to pull off a sting operation on the world's most seasoned and world-weary bunch, including Monte Blane (Bill Rice), a veteran actor in hundreds of Hollywood crowd scenes, Belle Russe (Black-Eyed Susan), an agent for dead clients ("celebrity salvage"), and a couple of mugs played by Jim Neu and Charles Allcroft whose idea of a warm impulse is to only break one of your legs. She's even got to fool the Rhonda Fleming Society, where career background actors meet to show off spear wounds from "Intolerance," swap Agnes Moorehead stories, and look up lost movies so they can claim to be in them.

It's a milieu that's simply made for Playwright Jim Neu, "the Oscar Wilde of the Postverbal Generation," who is a master of deadpan circumlocution and the elliptical take on language. This makes for blindingly brilliant dialogue, doublespeak, and a minimalist comedy style that is all Neu's own. The title refers to a pool table move where you use one ball to nudge another into the pocket. It's also an apt metaphor for the language upon which Neu's intricate plays ride: a sort of literary dodge-and-run, like when one character, savoring the anticipation of watching the two stars doing the unmentionable, declares, "If it's that good, you have my posthumous thanks in advance" and Lips accuses a fellow shakedown artist with, "You've got more sides than a bipolar conman, or am I hitting too close to home?" The piece is scored and played by jazz pianist/composer Neal Kirkwood and directed by Keith McDermott, a veteran of five previous Jim Neu plays. Sets are by Donald Eastman and lights are by Carol Mullins.

Critic Brandon Judell has called Jim Neu "one of the most effulgent beams currently shining on Off-off Broadway." Neu's own underplaying once reminded a reviewer of "a kind of Groucho Marx on medication." When his first full-length musical, "Dark Pocket," was presented by The Club at La MaMa in 1994 to approving audiences and critics, the Native (L.C. Cole) wrote, "It was minimalist writing and acting at one of the best performance levels around....This was controlled chaos, manipulated madness, intellectual idiocy, from which a lot of deconstruction-minded performers and writers could well learn....The fun of course was entirely in the stylish ride and the ideas it took us by."

Neu's material has, of late, proved to be surprisingly adaptable. This fall, Neu teamed up with choreographer Douglas Dunn for "Aerobia," a witty dance-play that was a sly satire on self-improvement fads. Deborah Jowitt wrote in the Village Voice, "Dunn's choreography and Neu's text form beguiling rhythmic partnerships, collide, and conspire, while managing to convey...the society of the future and a place where it hangs out." The season before, Neu's "Dark Pocket" (La MaMa, 1994), a piece based on a chance meeting of a detective and a mysterious older man in New York's Inwood section, was adapted into a play for two women by Bloolips' Bette Bourne and Paul Shaw and performed to approving notices at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, London.

Jim Neu began working in theater as an actor in Robert Wilson's company in the early 1970's, performing in New York, Europe, Brazil and Iran. When Wilson began employing text in his work, Neu began writing for him. He contributed to the scripts of Wilson's "Ka Mountain," The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin" and "A Letter for Queen Victoria." Neu began writing his own plays with the Napa Valley Theater Company in California in the late '70s. Since 1992, all his new works have been presented by La MaMa, with the exception of "Aerobia," the collaboration with Douglas Dunn. In all, Neu has written 25 plays, which have been presented by leading experimental theaters in New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Philadelphia and London. They include "Him or Me" (1979), "Basic Behavior" (1982), "Mutual Narcissism" (1984), "Duet for Spies" (1987), "An Evening with Jesse James" (1988), "Live Witness" (1992), "Dark Pocket" (1994), "The Floatones" (1995), "Mondo Beyondo" (1997) and Undercurrent Incorporated" (1999). In 1993, "Live Witness" was published by Theater Communications Group in their "Plays in Process" series. In recent years some of his earlier work has been revived by the Chain Lightning and Miranda theater companies in New York. In addition to his own work, Neu has collaborated with theater companies Otrabanda and the Talking Band, and written text for dance works by David Woodberry, Yoshiko Chuma, Charles Moulton and Cathy Weis. He also wrote the screenplays for Andrew Horn's films "Doomed Love" and "The Big Blue," which both premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Neu is recipient of a 1985-86 National Endowment for the Arts. Fellowship for New Genres, 1987 New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship, and a 1994 New Works grant by the New York State Council on the Arts.

Director Keith McDermott was a member of the cast of Jim Neu's "The Floatones" at La MaMa in 1995. As an actor he's performed major roles on Broadway as well as in the avant garde work of Robert Wilson and others. As a director, he's staged both modern and classical plays. Obie-winner Black-Eyed Susan is well known for her work with Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theater, John Jesurun, Mabou Mines, Roslyn Drexler and Stuart Sherman. Mary Shultz, recipient of an Obie and a Bessie Award, has performed with Meredith Monk, John Jesurun, Ping Chong, Anne Bogart, Mac Wellman, and many others. Bill Rice, a regular in Neu's plays, has performed with Stuart Sherman, starred in Tennessee Williams' "The Traveling Companion," danced with choreographer George Stamos, and had a solo show of his paintings in the Sidney Janis Gallery in NYC. Neal Kirkwood composes for and performs with the Chromatic Persuaders, The Discovery Orchestra and Gorilla My Love with Harry Mann. Charles Allcroft, who is also a playwright, has performed in works by Robert Whitman and "A Mass for the 21st Century" by Carmen Moore and acted in the films of Lee Ellickson and Vladen Nikolic. He has appeared in La MaMa productions of Jim Neu plays and in "The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter" by Ellen Stewart when it was produced for the Festival of Nations.

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