© Gaia Squarci

P*ssyc*ck Know Nothing

Reviewer's Rating

P*ssyc*ck Know Nothing. I felt like I knew nothing going into Target Margin Theater’s retelling of 1001 Nights, years in the making. Not the venue, not the concept, and only the vaguest memory of 1001 Nights and its many interfolded stories. Going in blind to a warehouse space adds its own heightened sense of unease. My levels of unknown were countered, and fears assuaged, by the knowing, smart, and adaptive work of creators and performers.

The first person on the stage to speak with us was Anthony Vaughn Merchant and it was with palpable relief that upon opening his mouth my first thought was “Oh good, he’s charming”. A charming, quick witted, talented cast is the glue that often holds grassroots, offbeat theater together. In this case, the night proved that performers, tech, writing and creative direction all knew how to work with the space on hand and the audience at large.

P*ssyc*ck Know Nothing tells the story of Scheherazade, a woman determined to delay her death at the hands of a cruel king by repeated cliffhangers. The world’s first binge. The king has been taking a new woman to marriage each night, forcing himself on her, and then killing her in the morning. Scheherazade weaves a tapestry of tales every night with the promise of more the next day if he but lets her live. However, it is not a simple retelling or this Arabian tale, nor is it all archaic. In fact, as the title suggests other genres assert their influence, including a jaunt into the styles of 70s porn.

The story of these “few nights” is of the porter and the three mysterious ladies. A beautiful woman hires a porter to help with her shopping and brings him home with her to her two beautiful sisters. The man begs to stay and is allowed, under the promise that he asks no questions of things that do not concern him. Several other men join and stories are told to break the women’s secrets.

P*ssyc*ck has an incredible sense of timing, with transitions into different characters, different genres, and audio stylings, allowing the piece to slide between humor, drama, and patriarchal horror at a whim. One of the more impressive elements is the use of space, lighting and audience participation to keep one off balance and immersed in the world. The lighting design at times looks like a neon club, at times a hazy yellow fog, all of which works with the disjointed narrative and storytelling of the tales of the Porter and the Three Ladies. The performers take turns playing various of the roles and narrators, allowing these symbols of people to alter and adjust to fit the needs of the tale at the moment. P*ssyc*ck Know Nothing is fun, a little weird, technically exacting, and leaves you with the echoes of unease about patriarchal justice and just who is the hand penning our stories.