Ubu Sings Ubu: Cleveland cult band’s music torn up and stewed

I was intrigued when I got an email about a show at Joe’s Pub tonight (Tuesday, March 25): the Ubu Sings Ubu Band.

I’ve never been a fan of Pere Ubu, David Thomas’ Cleveland avant-garage band. There’s not a single Ubu track in my iTunes library or in my I’ll-import-them-to-iTunes eventually collection of CDs.

So why would I care about the debut of a band covering songs that I’ll barely recognize?

The band’s video of  “Life Stinks” offered a taste that left me wanting more.

But it’s the personnel list that really got to me: Tony Torn, Dan Safer — and Stew (of  The Negro Problem/”Passing Strange” fame) sitting in as a special guest.

Torn, son of actors Geraldine Page and Rip Torn, is himself an actor, so there’s little doubt that any band he’d be involved with would put on a good show. He always seems to have something interesting going on at the Chelsea townhouse where his parents lived and worked, operating it as a salon. And his barrel-chested physique certainly does justice to his David Thomas impression.

Dan Safer, the choreographer and director behind Witness Relocation (someone I discovered virtually in my backyard through his involvement in Chekhov on Lake Lucille) will keep it all on track and moving well.

Heaven knows what Stew’s contribution will be, but given his encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, I’m sure it’ll be epic.

The band also includes Julie Atlas Muz (Ma Ubu), Vera Beren (Queen Of Poland/Keys/Theremin), Emmitt Joe George (Captain Edge, Bass, Backing Vocals), Matt Butterfield (Bougrelas, Guitar, backing vocals) and Patrick “Paddymyke” Conlon (King Of Poland, Drums).

As it turns out, this is not a bunch of theater people putting together a band for fun. It’s an event to whet our appetites for Torn’s upcoming theater project. It’s something he’s been working on for some time, and has performed in some fashion in the past. But it’s up for a full, immersive run at the Abrons Arts Center in Downtown Manhattan in April.

Pere Ubu took its name from French playwright Alfred Jarry’s 1896 work “Ubu Roi” (“Ubu, the King”), a radical, bizarre adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” set in Poland.

Torn, who says he’s been a fan of the band’s music since high school, took Jarry’s French script and ran it through Google Translate. The result, apparently, is an English script that’s probably wilder than anything Jarry ever imagined.

But Torn didn’t stop there. He mashed up the resultant script with the songs of Pere Ubu — with him singing the lead vocals — to produce “Ubu Sings Ubu.”

The interactive theater experience — there’s a bar onstage, and it sounds as though the lines between actors and audience will be blurry, a la the recent kick-ass “Murder Ballad” and other shows — is still seeking funding through crowd-funding site Indiegogo, but it’s set to go in just a couple of weeks.

Whatever the production may add to the history of theater in New York City, Torn promises one thing: “FACE MELTING.”

You can take him at his word, and buy tickets to the theater production now.  It’s slated to run April 9-26 at the Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street), in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Tickets are $18 and available online here. Special ticket deals also are available through the show’s Indiegogo page.

If you want to check out the Ubu Sings Ubu Band for a taste of what’s to come, get to Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street (in the Public Theater). You can buy tickets for tonight’s 9:30 p.m. show online now by clicking here. Or call 212-967-7555 after noon. They’re $20 — which, granted, is more than the cost of the full theatrical experience next month. But you won’t get Stew at that.


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