About midway through the show on March 25, the flabby, shirtless man on stage at Joe’s Pub — his face still bearing the image of the Polish eagle albeit runny with sweat — stepped out of character as Pere Ubu, the king of Poland.
It’s at this point in the show that I’d be introducing my special guest, said actor Tony Torn But I can’t, he added.
So he invited the audience to join him in a chant:
“Stew has flu. Stew has flu. Stew has flu….”
After chanting that a few times, any disappointment I might have been feeling about the absence of Stew, Tony Award-winning creator of “Passing Strange” and leader of the rock band The Negro Problem, vanished as Torn returned to character and carried on with the set.
Sure, it would have been nice to see Stew sit in with this talented band of actors and musicians. But he deserved to stay home and nurse his illness. And Torn and company managed to provide an extraordinarily entertaining evening without their announced special guest.
I had wondered how Stew fit into this mad plan of creating a band to cover Pere Ubu songs in character from from the Alfred Jarry’s 1896 French play “Ubu Roi.”
Torn, happily, answered the question from stage.
This show, “Ubu Sings Ubu,” wouldn’t have materialized at all if, some years ago, Stew hadn’t let Torn sing what he called “one of his crazy punk rock songs.”
He didn’t explain exactly when or how that occurred, so I can only guess it was in a workshop of some sort.
But Torn revealed enough to make the pieces fit together perfectly.
The Ubu Sings Ubu Band, of which Torn is the leader, is a band, but not a band. They sing and play quite well — in some respects, Torn’s version of Cleveland’s Pere Ubu sounds better than any recordings of the real Pere Ubu that I’ve heard – but they’re actors.
They’re a band put together for the stage production of “Ubu Sings Ubu” being presented at The Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grant Street (at Pitt Street) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan starting Wednesday and running through April 26. Click here to buy tickets online. They’re $18.
Torn promises live music, dancing girl, drinks and mayhem. Oh, yeah, and FACE MELTING.