Cannibalism Is So Tasteless

But what else would you expect from South Park creator Trey Parker?

ABOUT HALFWAY through the first act of the g'A Team Players' production of Cannibal: The Musical, (playing weekends through Saturday, Feb. 4; Thumpers, 1500 E. Madison St., 206-323-3800,, a very stout and hirsute gentleman in a cowboy hat and ribbed tank top sat down at my table and, gazing suggestively into my eyes, commenced fellating a foot-long hot dog on a stick. Talk about breaking down the fourth wall; the hot dog wasn't even cooked. His technique looked all right, though I was worried he might lose a crown on the stick's business end. It looked sharp. Just when I began to feel a tad uncomfortable about the duration of his visit, the actor took a dainty bite off the end of the tube steak—ouch—hopped up from the chair, and rejoined the troupe for the end of a song. Whether the number being performed at that moment was "Let's Build a Snowman," "The Sodomy," or a reprise of "Shpadoinkle Day," I honestly can't recall. My notes are indecipherable.

From this description, it may come as no surprise to learn that Cannibal is a musical by South Park creator Trey Parker, first written and filmed in 1998. Much like his vile and hilariously inappropriate hit cartoon series, Parker's screenplay mines humor from the darkest, most sadistic aspects of human behavior, presenting grotesquerie as an amped-up satire on everyday hypocrisy and idiocy. The titular subject matter is Alfred Packer, a Colorado man convicted of murder and cannibalism in 1883. The g'A Team's adaptation, produced and directed by Kristyne Bosaiya, plays the show as a gay cabaret. The narrative is truncated to a sort of greatest hits, and the music is pushed to the fore. It runs about an hour.

It would be neither fair nor appropriate nor productive to level an ordinary critical gaze upon the spectacle of Cannibal. In the director's words, this is a "butchered" version of Parker's original work. Nobody's winning any awards here, at least of the theatrical kind. I can, however, talk about the show—its features, for instance, such as the fine tortoiseshell codpiece worn by Mok Moser, who plays a French trapper; or the cute stuffed horse, Leon, which serves as Packer's one true love (Packer is played by Michael Leonard); and then there are always the hot dog blow jobs. The action, technically speaking, is cued by giant cards announcing each brief scene; every time a beep sounds on the prerecorded soundtrack, one of the cast members scurries over and flips to a new card. You get the idea. The overall effect is somewhere between fiasco and in-joke, which, one assumes, is pretty much what was intended. Aim low, and you're bound to hit something.

The music is pretty damn funny. Parker has a real talent for creating these absurd pop ditties, songs whose comedy hinges on repetition and juxtaposition, and he can transform the most banal turn of phrase into a catchy and hilarious chorus. In contrast to the rest of his transgressive humor, which ranges from the scatological to the scandalous, his songwriting is wonderfully understated, almost flat. As Packer and his band of grotesques suffer endless privations on their slog through Utah to Colorado, they sing their tale of woe: "That's all we're asking for/Forget about the pie/We just don't want to die." It's like Woody Allen meets Monty Python. Other noteworthy numbers include the rousing "Hang the Bastard" and "When I Was on Top of You," a galloping paean to man/horse love.

Is the show so bad it's good? Hard to say. It has its charms—sort of the same way watching a drunk eat corn on the cob has its charms. The folks in the audience the night I attended all seemed to know each other, or maybe they were all members of some underground cannibal appreciation society. Anyway, they seemed to be having a good time. I certainly didn't have a bad time. Drinking helped. I can't vouch for the food, though. I didn't eat. It just didn't seem right.

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