Making (Non)Sense of Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit

Making (Non)Sense of Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit

The mainstream magazine Newsweek published a glowing review of the Play-House of the Ridiculous’s production of Jackie Curtis’s play—an unlikely turn of events for such an underground show: “What this is can only be experienced, and seeing Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit is seeing an explosion of pure theatrical energy unconfined by any effete ideas of form, content, structure, or even rationality. It is an insanely intense, high-velocity, high-decibel circus, costume ball, and scarifying super-ritual in which transvestism, scatology, obscenity, camp, self-assertion, self-deprecation, gallows humor, cloacal humor, sick humor, healthy humor, and cutting, soaring song all blast off through the tiny, backless-benched theater.” John Vaccaro played Princess Ninga Flinga, an aspiring actress whose career was hampered by the fact that her arms were cut off at the elbows, and the show featured designed-to-offend songs such as “Thalidomide Baby” and “In God’s Shitty Lap.” As for the plot, actress Ruby Lynn Reyner summed it up thus: “The show was nonsensical.” She recalled that when Curtis brought the script to Vaccaro, “it was nothing but gibberish. It was a litany, a mishmash—dialogue that was taken from old movies and transposed into a play.” Vaccaro had to make sense out of it, so he set it in a carnival sideshow filled with bizarre characters. He liked directing plays that made little sense, because he could imbue them with his own brand of social satire. “With Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit,” Arcade said, “once again, John took that play and made it into something entirely different, which had nothing to do with anything that Jackie had planned.”

From Chapter 17 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


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