Ricci/Forte's "Macadamia Nut Brittle" | Danielle Virginia Antonelli
Ricci/Forte’s “Macadamia Nut Brittle” | Photo by Danielle Virginia Antonelli

NEW YORK CITY: Curb your desire to sit close. As attractive as the four young Italian performers of Macadamia Nut Brittle are, as delicious it might be to be an up-close voyeur, the ideal place would be to sit farther from the Abron Arts Center‘s main stage. The distance guarantees that no smashed bits of food debris or viscous liquids will hit your face or stain your clothes or stick to the seats. You may not want to be in the line of cum fire.

More important: you will not want to miss a single scabrous word that rains from this lysergic extravaganza of naked flesh and raw emotion. Performed in Italian with large English supertitles projected on a dark-grey garage door, Macadamia Nut Brittle is a dangerous show, especially for those who like their queer aesthetics cozily free of perversity, impudence, nasty fucking or anything resembling mischief and ironic complexity. The creation of the Italian duo Ricci/Forte, who style themselves as the Starsky and Hutch of dramatic writing, Macadamia Nut Brittle is anything but cozy. The opening production of Queer New York International Arts Festival, it will most likely be admired and talked about for its transgressive sense of spectacle. The real reason you want to sit farther to the back is so that you can appreciate it as a work of strong dramatic writing.

Ricci/Forte's "Macadamia Nut Brittle" | Photo by Mauro Santucci
Ricci/Forte’s “Macadamia Nut Brittle” | Photo by Mauro Santucci

Simultaneously spiky and poetic, rough monologues tear through this provocation like a blast of poppers through the nostrils. Inspired by the ferocious stories of the novelist Dennis Cooper (Frisk, Closer, Safe, Guide), Ricci/Forte’s vision of sexually ambiguous young men gripped by sexual obsessions, hedonistic impulses and pop culture, runs the risk of losing control.

It starts as a kind of line dance. Three male performers, dressed in red, green and yellow hoodies and shirts, repeat a series of simple choreographic hand motions that would not be alien inside an airplane a tarmac. Except that orgasmic moans and groans are blasting from the speakers. Except that the gestures vaguely echo zipper action and self-love.

The piece then takes off. Wonder Woman (Anna Gualdo) enters. She spins ’round and ’round to signify her transformation. The show swiftly morphs into a four-way orgy. Then it explodes: a battlefield of smashed muffins and red spurts. It’s a bloody pornotopia.

The three male actors (Fabio Gomiero in green, Andrea Pizzalis in red, and Giuseppe Sartori in yellow) flash their stats using cue cards. They are guys looking for a loving connection. What follows are cruel fairy tales about their youthful passions and extreme adolescent behaviors, all of it curdling in a synthetic U.S. media culture. A river of eruptions in a cold TV-drenched universe where “love is like a gas leak,” because it is undetectable. Blasts of queer narratives issuing from the mouths of four amazing performers who, at one point, mimic jumping off a plane and skydiving to suggest the show’s free-fall ensemble approach to non-realistic character development.

Ricci/Forte's "Macadamia Nut Brittle" | Photo by Mauro Santucci
Ricci/Forte’s “Macadamia Nut Brittle” | Photo by Mauro Santucci

Macadamia Nut Brittle is excoriating, sexy, hallucinatory, viciously funny. The plot steals from the mode of a reality-TV show, but its stance is subversive and punk. As the noisy evening unfolds, Ricci/Forte detonates, again and again and again, the illusory logic of this TV genre to expose how a consumerist culture eroticizes or brutalizes or distorts innocent young people in an uncomplex way. Macadamia Nut Brittle is a reality-game show gone sadistically bonkers. Wonder Woman, figured here as every queer boy’s dream of a superhero, gets booted over and over in the tush, for example.

Three young men, whose names take after a flavor of Haagen Dazs ice cream, unashamedly leap into the nether void of love — what the text later rejects as “a selfish dream” and “a phantasmagoric empty existence” where everyone indulges in a series of one night-stands where nobody is what he promises to be. “If I were a superhero,” declares Macadamia, magnetically portrayed by the lean and oliver-skinned Andrea Pizzalis, “I would stop pressing my replay button.” In a Whitmanesque yawp, Macadamia describes the funk he inhabits, a limbo where his identify is swung back and forth by the forces of capitalist culture, animalistic passion and rock music. Brittle, the superb Fabio Gomiero (he’s the bald one and has the lightest skin), speaks about how love between men can never be permanent, because men, like nature, are always unfaithful. He says that pain can only serve as a glue between men who have sex with other men. “Pain is a holy seal,” Brittle says. “Are you one of those men who think love is something that lasts forever?”

Nut, the hirsute Giuseppe Sartori, is perhaps the most laconic of all the four performers. A versatile performer, Nut oozes appeal. Because he is so tall, Nut is the most imposing in this gang of lost boys and, well, also the nuttiest. Before he gets around to speaking his mind, Nut parades around in a giant bunny suit. He holds scissors in one paw and a shopping bag in the other. Soon he hyperventilates. The other performers strip him off his bunny suit. Nut falls to the ground, still wearing his face mask. His shapely ass curving into the air, Nut expresses his fears and anxieties by breathing wordlessly into the mic.

Gualdo’s Wonder Woman counter-balances the raw male energy that drives Macadamia Nut Brittle. Eventually she herself disappears into the miasma. Particularly during an extended group-sex episode. Although she recurs through out, there is one scene where she stands out. Driving down the countryside of Guidonia in central Italy, she cries out, “Come out!” and “Can you see me!” Collapsed on a chair, probably drugged out on ketamine, she lashes out at the men whom she confesses she needs to bleed, to eat, to swallow. “I’m a person,” she screeches. “I’m not a dog.”

Ricci/Forte's "Macadamia Nut Brittle" | Photo by Mauro Santucci
Ricci/Forte’s “Macadamia Nut Brittle” | Photo by Mauro Santucci

Stefano Ricci, the director, does offer us stretches of insouciant relief from the harsh ferociousness of Macadamia Nut Brittle. The show throws up an extravagant litany of American pop-culture and TV references that often make us laugh and smile in recognition. At one point, the boys put on high heels and, wearing only the skimpiest of white underwear, dance and lipsynch to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.” Scenographically, the show moves and talks like a visual-art/performance installation. It’s outrageous because it knows no bounds in its love for cheese.

Still, all of this perverse flash and glittering performance style don’t hide the simplest and most basic fact: the show’s texts actually sum up into a play. Macadamia Nut Brittle‘s heart throbs to the beat of poetic drama.

Ricci/Forte was formed at Silvio D’Amico’s Accademia Nazionale D’Arte Drammatica in Rome. The couple studied writing with Edward Albee at New York University. Although I have not yet seen them, their previous body of work might be perhaps be viewed as highly idiosyncractic re-writings of classics. Wunderkammer Soap re-configures the Elizabethan world of Christopher Marlowe. Pinter’s Anatomy takes its cues from Harold Pinter, Troilus vs. Cressida from Shakespeare. The kids are not okay in Macadamia Nut Brittle, a re-envisioning of the uneasy universe of Dennis Cooper. It’s a visual fantasia alright. And yet Ricci/Forte’s text distills the pure essence of Cooper’s pitch-perfect perversities and pays homage to the novelist’s rigorous love of language.

Macadamia Nut Brittle runs the gamut of emotions. It thrills. It depresses. It teases. It exults. It stirs up feelings of depravity and lust. It splashes cold irony in the face of our sentimentality and romanticism. Dripping with ruthless smarts, Macadamia Nut Brittle flings the value of shock into our complacent faces. It’s a valentine to a world that doesn’t have a heart to love.

Ricci/Forte (Italy) – Macadamia Nut Brittle
Performance
Thursday and Friday, June 7 and 8, at 8:00pm
Abrons Art Center: Playhouse
466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street), NYC

212-598-0400
www.abronsartscenter.org
Tickets: $20

Tickets: http://www.abronsartscenter.org/performances/qnyi/ricci-forte.html

Ricci/Forte's "Macadamia Nut Brittle" | Photo Maruo Santucci
Ricci/Forte’s “Macadamia Nut Brittle” | Photo Maruo Santucci
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3 thoughts on “Performance review (NSFW) | Italy’s Ricci/Forte serves up queer fantasia in “Macadamia Nut Brittle”

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