The Club

September 18 - 21, 25 - 28
Thursday - Saturday 10:00pm
Sunday 5:30pm

written and performed by: Jim Neu
with: Deborah Auer and Bill Rice
director: Keith McDermott
music: Harry Mann
video editing and design: Charles Dennis
scenic design: David Fritz
costumes: Angela Wendt
lighting: Arthur Adair

In TARGET AUDIENCE (THE CODE OF THE WESTERN) playwright/performer Jim Neu tells the story of the West as it's never been told before. Neu plays Dr. James Thorne, a guest speaker at the Saddleholster Film Festival, where die-hard fans come to see old B-westerns one more time.

Dr. Thorne is a professor of Situology, a new science that studies the interface between the factual and the fictional. The Doctor begins in the days when the Wild West was simultaneously current events and a new entertainment form--the first pop culture. As the events faded, the entertainment form continued to thrive, affecting behavior on both sides of the reality frontier. To a Situologist, autobiography is research, and Dr. Thorne's references grow increasingly personal. His deep affection for his subject shows the charm of unconditional cowboy love, as well as the potential menace.

The accompanying video, made up of period stills and film clips, highlights the major players, both real and imaginary. Dr. Thorne is occasionally joined by his guitar-playing research assistant, Ashley Nevada (Deborah Auer). They perform songs that amplify key scenes of the evening. Bill Rice makes a special appearance as Harley Baker, the host of the Saddleholster Film Festival.

Critic Deborah Jowitt (Village Voice) called Jim Neu's recent collaboration with dancer Douglas Dunn, "Aerobia," a "beguiling rhythmic partnership." As a playwright, Jim Neu 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. There's plenty of Neu-speak for audiences to relish in the life-distending philosophies of the character. ("Like you, I'm too young for so many of my memories.") ("If a fictional experience changes somebody's actual life, aren't we finally ready to say it really happened?"). Critic Brandon Judell has called Jim Neu "one of the most effulgent beams currently shining on Off-off Broadway." 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."

Director Keith McDermott has directed four previous plays by Jim Neu, most recently last season's "Kiss Shot." 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.

Composer Harry Mann reveals his skill in a new genre with his music for the country-western songs in "Target Audience." Mann has writen music for ten previous Neu plays. Video is by Charles Dennis, whose own performances mixing video and choreography have been presented extensively in New York and across the country. Sets are by David Fritz, who designed Neu's "Undercurrent Incorporated" at La MaMa in 2000. Costumes are by Angela Wendt, who designed Neu's "Kiss Shot" last season. Lighting is by Arthur Adair who designed "Marga Gomez's Intimate Details" last season.

There's a New Sheriff in Town—and He Brought a Slide Show
by Tom Sellar
Village Voice Review
September 24-30, 2003

Listen up, buckaroos and buckarettes. With a cowboy running the world, local sheriffs can't be the only ones worrying about the rules of the West. Playwright-performer Jim Neu is an expert on frontier culture and shares his wisdom in Target Audience: The Code of the Western. The author presents himself as Dr. James Thorne, guest lecturer at the Saddleholster Film Festival, and addresses an audience of western-movie fans on the genre's evolution. He's backed up by Ashley Nevada, his guitar-strumming research assistant (Deborah Auer). Behind them footage rolls of B-movie scenes starring Lash LaRue, John Wayne, and a galloping Ronald Reagan. A slide show further illustrates his lecture.

Professor Thorne's thesis gets as expansive as his silver belt buckle: "First they settled the West, then they settled the western." Producers and writers arrived to claim the frontier not long after the settlers did, inventing irresistible historical icons and legends for America with ever loosening ties to historical fact. The result: A nation that absorbs its history through B movies now happily inhabits "islands of enriched reality." "A lot of what we went through never actually happened," he observes, but "it's hard to deny the evidence of your senses."

Though Neu's deadpan delivery can be dryer than a Utah hill town, hardworking listeners can dig up nuggets of golden wit. As Dr. Thorne announces, "I'm a mining engineer, and what I'm looking for is meaning." Despite the writing's occasional charms, Target Audience's lecture-monologue mostly substitutes Neu's drollness for drama, and his recitation can take a lethal pace. Still, when canny clips show besieged cowboys in a hapless showdown in the Arabian sands, Neu's observations marshal more force than his stage presence might convey.

2003 page