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Dick Zigun’s ‘Dead End Dummy’ at Sideshows by the Seashore

Play it again! Coney stalwart revives play about vindictive ventriloquist

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Edison killed the vaudeville star — now the vaudeville star wants to kill Edison!

Dick Zigun, Coney Island’s unofficial mayor and the mastermind behind the Mermaid Parade, is reviving a play he wrote in 1985, which will run at his Surf Avenue fun palace Sideshows by the Seashore from Oct. 10–Nov. 2. The Yale Drama School alum said the production, titled “Dead End Dummy,” is an avant-guarde take on an archaic subject — the turn-of-the-century American stage phenomenon vaudeville.

“It’s a psychological portrait of a ventriloqu­ist’s descent into theatrical hell,” said playwright Dick Zigun. “He blames [Thomas] Edison for death of vaudeville and sets out on a lifelong quest to get revenge.”

Edison is credited with inventing the motion picture projector, which sounded the death knell for the once-pervasive form of entertainment, Zigun explained.

“It was considered a significant art form in the particular world that existed before the invention of movies — particularly talkies — and all the electronic media,” he said.

The production draws on performative elements from vaudeville and promises all the color and bawdy delight of an old-school stage show, including singing, ventriloquism, and the “antiquated [Francois] Delsarte acting system of extreme gestures,” Zigun said.

The performance marks the first revival of the first play Zigun’s non-profit Coney Island USA ever staged, Zigun said. But this time, Zigun isn’t directing — instead, he put the play in the capable hands of local author and performer Trav S.D., he said.

“He is his generation’s foremost expert on vaudeville,” Zigun said. “He literally wrote the book — ‘No Applause, Just Throw Money.’ ”

And don’t expect a repeat of the performance from three decades ago, either, Zigun said.

“It’s a different interpretation of the one from ’85,” he said. “I doubt there’s many people who are around who saw it back then.”

“Dead End Dummy” at Sideshows by the Seashore [1208 Surf Ave. at W. 12th Street in Coney Island, www.coneyisland.com). Oct. 10–Nov. 2 at 8 pm. $15.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 5:32 pm, October 7, 2014
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