Wow, this show is bizarre. But bizarre in a way that carries on P.S. 122’s scintillating legacy as a downtown refuge for freaky, outré performance art. Musician/performer Neal Medlyn’s latest rock "tragic-comedy," Unpronounceable Symbol, pays musical homage to Prince, with a live band led by Kiki & Herb’s Kenny Mellman, who co-wrote the show and rearranged a bunch of Prince B-sides for the score.
Over the years, Medlyn’s developed quite a cult following with his idiosyncratic performances, which have previously used the back catalogs of artists like Phil Collins and Lionel Richie as a springboard into his own warped delectations. On opening night his fans packed P.S. 122 to celebrate every ribald twist in his latest saga. There’s really no reason why the fantasia of an awkward, bespectacled, bi-sexual white boy from Texas should elicit such frisson, but Medlyn is so brazenly committed to his own deeply eccentric vision that you can’t help but cheer him on.
It’s all highly baffling – in Unpronounceable Symbol he plays multiple roles: Jerry, a decadent pop star with a talent for lethal cum shots and Neal, a sensitive, infertile cabbie and the object of Jerry’s desire. (Also, Jehovah.) Throughout the hour-plus performance, Medlyn acts out both sides of their tumultuous affair, which becomes ruinous after Jerry’s drummer Bob George (Carmine Covelli) steals his lovebird away.
A jealous rage leads to murder, a shameless Murray Hill cameo, and a hellish afterlife where he’s forced to dance his sins away in one screamingly funny scene that features the most ingenious theatrical use of dildos I’ve seen. The whole spectacle risks collapsing into self-referential obscurity, but there’s something oddly winning about Medlyn’s sex-crazed solipsism. To be fair, he’s also ably abetted here by his co-star Covelli, who’s so hilarious as Jerry’s smarmy rival that he deserves a headlining show of his own: Is Bob George's Karma Cumeleon taken?
Neal Medlyn’s Unpronounceable Symbol continues through June 20th at P.S. 122. Tickets cost $20.