Theatre Tours International Ltd
Theatre Tours International Ltd
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To: Americana Absurdum - image derived from Grant Wood's American Gothic
  • Written by Brian Parks
  • Directed by John Clancy
  • Performed by Absurdum International
  • (Originally Produced by The Present Company, New York City (John Clancy, Artistic Director; Elena K. Holy, Producing Director). Subsequently produced at THE NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL, a production of  THE PRESENT COMPANY)
  • European Premiere: Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh 2000
  • London Premiere: Menier Chocolate Factory, May 2004

"... a pair of caustic, hyperarticulate comedies which fan flames of inspiration. Playwright Brian Parks and an expert cast send up American culture in the venomous tradition of Christopher Durang." (Peter Marks, The New York Times)

"A screwball comedy with so much wit, intelligence and bite, you'll be laughing and nodding your head in agreement throughout. Perhaps the best combination of play-writing and production to come out of New York downtown theatre in the 90s." (Tom Murrin, Paper Magazine)


AMERICANA ABSURDUM has all the giddy, faintly squeamish exhilaration of quitting your day job, overdosing on alcohol and cough syrup, jumping up and down on the couch, and surfing through infomercials hysterically at 3 in the morning. There's the same out-of-control sense of breakneck speed; the mixed joy and panic of ceding all responsibility; the dizzying insomniac excitement of imminent exhaustion; the blurry, garish colours; the sharp-faced fast talking hucksters selling off-brand product with specious philosophy. AND, most important of all, the inexhaustible pleasure of American spectatorship: watching the con without being the mark. At least, not yet. Not until you pick up that phone...

AMERICANA ABSURDUM celebrates the comic, vertiginous thrill of America in its many, fun-house mirror guises revelling in the comic possibilities of spectacular tragedy. parodying the bankrupt American dream and spotlighting the problematic value systems that its morality tales hide.

"Fast-paced, high strung, and brand conscious, these two (completely different) plays are like the bastard offspring of Len Jenkins and Joe Orton raised in a trailer park somewhere in mid-America. Their energetic surrealism does more than mock American mores: It inhabits them, jacks up the volume and blows them wide open. Its more than pastiche, its exploding intertext."Jessica Branch -

  • PART I: VOMIT AND ROSES. Young Perth's family's beloved price-gouging funeral home business faces takeover by a huge, impersonal, nasty corporation, lessening the already negligible chance that his shy sister Kea will ever get a prom date. Sweetly romantic Kea is given to unprovoked outbursts about the moral defensibility of masturbation. Her mother rhapsodises about the secret inner landscape of viscera. These corn fed naïfs find themselves at the mercy of their aggressively litigious and ingratiatingly sleazy lawyer, Ermine Miami, from whose tender claws only an Act of God (or Brian de Palma) can save them.
  • PART II: WOLVERINE DREAM involves an airline-owning poetaster; some very depressed clowns with a morphine-addicted mother; two sisters fighting over who'll hand the estate onto the Scientologists; a blarney-speaking émigré with a support staff of leprechauns; and a Wolverine as the star witness of an hilarious climactic courtroom scene.

Americana AbsurdumScotsman Fringe First Winner 2000
Nominated Best Ensemble in Stage Awards for Acting Excellence 2000

Vomit & Roses

"The New York company of 10 players takes the audience on a breakneck journey to the rotten core of America.. The themes are dealt with satirically and..are easily conveyed to British audience. Brian Parks's script is sharp and clever and the simplistic direction adds to the sinister atmosphere of a darkened stage lit with bare light bulbs which illuminate each actor as they speak. Slick and frenetic... It's flawless, although not for the faint-hearted or slow-witted." (Anna Adams, Metro 25/08/00)

"The American Dream gets the legs whipped from under it as Brian Parks delves behind the whitewashed porches of Shafer City - a town that is..surreal, dark, and ultimately very funny.. Illuminated by roving lightbulbs..the production waits for no-one racing through a comic tale that is both grotesque and sophisticated, turning American icons into trinkets: the playthings of a skilled cast who have perfected their timing, their delivery, and their sense of the absurd.." (Robert Thomson, The Herald 25/08/00)

"Borrowing a synopsis from American film, big time capitalist attempts to swallow bourgeois smallholding capitalist, this piece treats like for like, playing each with equivalent ideological malice... Brian Parks' script is as literate as it is ingenious... the playing is splendid... The use of sudden blackouts and rapid transitions makes for deft narrative framing in a production which sees director John Clancy display some clever stagecraft. As prettily structured as a formaldehyde frenzy could be." (Steve Cramer, The List 24/08/00)

"This is an hilarious play, a send-up of everything American from family values to business to the military. But it's not a vicious satire: quite the contrary. It's like... like a caring father chastising his child to bring him back on the right road... The staging is simple but ingenious. The big nasty corporation, for instance, is represented by one man and two suits on hangers. ... Great fun! Now I am disappointed I'll not be seeing the second of the Americana Absurdum plays, Wolverine Dream, but time, alas, does not allow." (Peter Lathan,

"The ten-strong Americana Absurdum company fit a week's worth of surrealism and one-liners into a bare fifty minutes in this show, playing in repertoire with their Wolverine Dream.. Scenes are played at breakneck speed, illuminated by hand-focused single-bulb lamps, in delicious reductio ad absurdum (exactly) of apple-pie values. Laugh for more than a second and you'll miss another gag. A beaut." (Ian Shuttleworth,

"Using little more than handheld lamps and a 100mph delivery, John Clancy's production is a darkly comic compendium of glorious non-sequiturs that knits together the stock types and sacred cows of American culture, and makes them look ridiculous.. America may be a mess of hypocrisy and sleaze but that's what makes the country so funny." (Neil Cooper, The Times 22/08/00)

"Its component plays both plumb the depths of corporate malpractice, legal chicanery and family breakdown..Both are staged in a darkness broken only by handheld bulbs, which illuminate scenes in quickfire succession..Brians Parks' writing, and its delivery in John Clancy's production, is highly stylised..It's undeniably dazzling stuff, notably in a series of pyrotechnic soliloquies by which Parks sets upon national or professional mores..A top-notch cast, all perfectly attuned to the production's hyper-sardonic mode..Parks is possessed of a lucid and original comic sense." (Brian Logan, The Independent 21/08/00)

"Sheer relentlessness of delivery.. This is a fast show.. It's also a virtuoso display of theatrical pyrotechnics..This is satirical social commentary - laughter with meaning. Frenetic." (Iain Macwhirter, Sunday Herald 20/08/00)

"A zany send-up of adolescent dreams and American institutions.. Brian Parks' script is sparky and..there is a wide-reaching satire. Director John Clancy's staging is classy, his cast slickly doubling as macabre tech crew who huddle round and spotlight each rapid fire scene with flick-on, flick-off lamps." (Kate Bassett, The Independent on Sunday 20/08/00)

"Clever wit and spark from writer Brian Parks, and a talented ensemble, telling the story of an all-American family whose business gets swallowed up by a corporate take-over...This is fast. perceptive, surreal and funny." (Critics` Choice, The Scotsman 19/08/00)

"Offers excellent evidence that contemporary theatre in the States is also a seed bed of fine satire. The constituent plays Vomit and Roses and Wolverine Dream shed hilarious and razor-sharp light into the dark corners of American society. Politically and historically literate, and dripping with veiled and not-so-veiled references to American literature, Americana Absurdum is a splendidly performed and brilliantly observed comedy." (Mark Brown, Scotland on Sunday 13/08/00)

"I was riveted as 10 players took to the stage for one of the funniest and most surreal performances I've seen. At neck-breaking speed, the play bounced from scene to scene, the action highlighted by swinging spotlights. The humour was black and sailed close to the wind more often than not as the American dream was deftly dissected for all to see. Part II went head to head with a force nine. Tailored for a certain sense of humour and bordering on sick, I thoroughly enjoyed it. No Part III?" (Alison Cockcroft, Scotland on Sunday 13/08/00

"Brian Parks' uproarious satire of the Land of the Free...An epic performed in two parts on alternate nights, it is a must-see show for anyone who has ever wanted to see Uncle Sam with his trousers down." (Critics Choice, Scotland on Sunday 13/08/00)

"A slick, quickfire pair of devastatingly black comic plays launch us into a world of loan-shark funeral parlour scams, corporate lawyers, nascent Nazism, post-modern literary criticism, twisted sentimentality and mass-transit mega-death. ... Staged in a series of fast linked scenes with a relentless succession of tag-lines and lit on a dark stage by the cast themselves with hand held lamps, it's as if we're taken on a roller-coaster ghost-train ride from set piece to set piece of hilarious intellectual horror. ... The breakneck speed and timing are flawless. No one misses a cue. (No one has time the time even to think they might miss a cue!) Hilarious - not to be missed." (Colin Donati, 10/08/00)

"If Americana Absurdum came in a tin it would do exactly as it says on the tin. It would also have two distinct flavours - 'Vomit and Roses' and 'Wolverine Dream'. But they would both taste of five stars and when you had finished one - it wouldn't matter which - you would be livid you had to wait until the next night to taste the other. You would definitely want to taste it for yourself." (Thom Dibdin, Evening News 09/08/00)

Wolverine Dream

"The hilarious second half of this surreal national portrait parades a collection of oddballs and misfits before us. Beneficiaries of disaster, they are all bound together by the financial fallout from an air crash... The nine cast members are constantly onstage. Lights pick out individuals while the rest lurk in the darkness.. The writing is superb." (Helen Freshwater, Three Weeks 21/08/00)

"The breakneck pace of the playing adds to the audience's hysteria in this frenetic piece, full of tricksy aphorism and surreal visual dislocation. A maudlin and very funny sermon on contemporary American life, this amounts to a memorable evening of theatre." (Steve Cramer, The List, 10/08/00)

"The second of Brian Parks' Absurdum plays is like a rapid-fire standup comedy show that has suddenly gelled into weird dream-like drama. It produces some of the most searingly, wickedly perceptive comic monologues I've heard in years." (Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman 08/08/00)

"A cracking cast and refreshingly mischievous, inventive author. The real target is American callousness, sentimentality and folly; a world where one of those questioned by lunatic lawyers is a wolverine who left its forest family to become a banker. Surreal stuff; but funny and biting too." (Benedict Nightingale, The Times 07/08/00)

"... a pair of caustic, hyper articulate comedies fan flames of inspiration. Playwright Brian Parks and an expert cast send up American culture in the venomous tradition of Christopher Durang." (Peter Marks, The New York Times)

"A screwball comedy with so much wit, intelligence and bite, you'll be laughing and nodding your head in agreement throughout. Perhaps the best combination of play-writing and production to come out of New York downtown theatre in the 90s." (Tom Murrin, Paper Magazine)

"Comically grotesque... biting." (Alexis Greene, Variety)

"Pure machine-gun black comedy." (Francine Russo, The Village Voice)

"A splash of acid fun, transforming delusions, aggressions and insane hate into theatrical joy."(Randy Gener, The Village Voice)