NEW YORK CITY: The avant-garde playwright/director John Jahnke, with a wicked grin, describes Men Go Down (Part 3) as “almost like a Noël Coward absurdist Victorian chamber drama–style series of odd events.” In this elliptical, Greek myth–inspired fairy tale, a cocaine-addicted king, Endymion, wakes after a 1,500-year sleep in a Turkish hotel and finds himself trapped in a decadent world, circa 1893, that calls to mind a satirical novel by Octave Mirbeau or Oscar Wilde.
“The hotel is a dangerous place where this perpetual youth is allowed to perpetuate his immaturity. Endymion achieves
great success through sheer will without thinking very much about the fallout. He’s a prime example of a type of go-getter in the modern world who is not held responsible for how he got to the top or what he does when he gets there. Then he becomes absolutely terrified of confronting the methods he used—he wakes up in a complete state of disorientation, not knowing the reality of the world outside the room he lives in.”
Subtitled Black Recollections, this third section of Jahnke’s dramatic triptych (the first two parts are Alas, The Nymphs and The Sleep of Endymion), goes up Jan. 6–23 at 3LD Art and Technology Center, where his downtown performance company Hotel Savant is featured as part of COIL 2011 , Performance Space 122’s annual winter festival of contemporary performance. The three risqué, daring and hyper-stylized parts are intended to be performed separately or together in any order.
As with any gorgeous Jahnke creation, Men Go Down (Part 3) is likely to be an enigmatic pictorial construct: his stagings are often cool but sensuous, the performers frequently unclothed and drop-dead gorgeous, the choreography swoonily elegant, and the language obsessed with poetic fillips.
Jahnke’s ambition here is to anatomize political guilt through a mythic supra-narrative: What happens to puerile leaders like George W. Bush after they leave office? “Do they concentrate on the mistakes they made,” Jahnke asks, “or do they live in a fantasy world? Do they confront cold hard reality?”—Randy Gener
This article first appeared in the January 2011 edition of American Theatre magazine, published by Theatre Communications Group.