LIFE IN THE FARCE LANE

Test drive: Playwright Gersh Kuntzman (left, with actorJerry Miller), who penned "SUV: The Musical," prepares to careen wildly into the New York International Fringe Festival on Saturday.
The Brooklyn Papers / Tom Callan

Park Slope journalist Gersh Kuntzman takes
aim at America’s favorite sport – driving huge, gas-guzzling
vehicles – and the governmental policies that support it in his
new musical, "SUV: The Musical!"



Kuntzman is an editor and rewrite man for the New York Post,
but it was while he was also a columnist for Newsweek, from 2001
until this year, that he got the inspiration for "SUV: The
Musical!," one of 200 works selected from 800 entries in
this month’s New York International Fringe Festival in Manhattan.




Kuntzman wrote a general interest column about American topics
where he says he mostly "tried to give a New Yorker’s take
on being stuck with the rest of this country."



"Most of America lives in this bizarre world of big cars,
huge restaurant portions and isolation from their fellow Americans,"
Kuntzman told GO Brooklyn. "That’s why the SUV was the perfect
metaphor."



America’s obsession with quantity prompted "Bigger Is Better,"
the opening number in "SUV: The Musical!": "Have
you seen the Pentagon? It’s not some little fort!/Or the cinnamon
buns they’re selling at your hometown mall food court?/No winter
storm is worthy ’til we’re under tons of snow/ We even love the
deficit, let’s watch those trillions grow!"



But when Kuntzman wrote about SUVs in his column, he found they
were the "single, biggest hot-button issue."



"I found that whenever I wrote about SUVs, it would generate
so much hate mail from owners of SUVs who regarded it as a birthright
that they should be able to drive whatever they wanted to,"
says Kuntzman, who covered the Brooklyn Cyclones for The Brooklyn
Papers from 2001 to 2003. "At the same time, I would get
letters from environmentalists who would make their own vehement,
dogmatic arguments."



"SUV: The Musical!" is a tongue-in-cheek love story;
Kuntzman describes the plot as "boy-meets-girl, boy designs
a really big SUV for girl, boy loses girl to an environmental
activist, boy is sentenced to death for crimes against humanity."



The musical follows hero environmentalist Max Blank (Kenny Wade
Marshall, of Sunset Park) as he takes on a double-dealing Saudi
sheik and two randy crash test dummies in an effort to foil Behemoth
Motor’s plot to destroy America. His task, however, is complicated
when he falls in love with Sarah, the wife of the evil SUV designer
Dick Johnson.



The final resolution answers such questions as: Does Max end
up with Sarah? Does the new Behemoth Destroyer revive America’s
flagging auto industry? Does Saudi ambassador Bindar al-Subhai
al-Mohammad ("Call me Al") al-Quarzi succeed in driving
up oil prices to $5 per gallon? And most important: do the crash
test dummies find true love?



Along the way, there’s "political intrigue, drama, suspense,
laughs and chills," says Kuntzman.



Beneath all the fun is a satire on America, a country Kuntzman
thinks has "gone down the wrong road – the road of waste
and inefficiency and a belief that our nation is always right."
For Kuntzman, the SUV is a "great symbol of our nation now."



"SUV: The Musical!" is the 40-year-old playwright’s
second show at the Fringe; last year’s show was "An Evening
of Semi-Autobiographical Highly Self-Indulgent Comedy."
"SUV" is filled with music (composed by Marc Dinkin)
and dance (choreographed by Fort Greene-ite Katie Workum). Workum
has created four big dance numbers with the full cast of 12 and
smaller numbers for each of the songs.



"Our double-dealing sheik [played by Derek Roland] does
a great solo tap number," says Kuntzman.



Dinkin has written both lyrics and music for what Kuntzman calls
"up-tempo numbers and a few ballads, the most important
of which is sung by one crash dummy to another.



"It will bring tears to your eyes," guarantees Kuntzman.



Although he insists his musical is an old-fashioned, three-hankie
timeless love story, Kuntzman modestly describes "SUV"
as "a raucous satire of American life."



At a time when gasoline prices are soaring while SUVs run rampant
on our streets and roadways, and oil is intricately involved
in terrorism and war, "SUV: The Musical" is certainly
topical no matter which side of the highway you take your stand.

 

Neo-Shtick Theater presents "SUV:
The Musical" at the New York International Fringe Festival
Aug. 13 at noon, Aug. 15 at 7:45 pm, Aug. 19 at 4 pm, Aug. 24
at 10:30 pm and Aug. 27 at 8:15 pm at The Village Theater, 150
Bleecker St. at Thompson Street in Manhattan. Tickets are $15.
For more information, call (212) 279-4488 or visit www.ticketweb.com.


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