JERK | Puppetry of the Dennis Nov 6, 2008
by Tania Kupczak
Gisele Vienne's JERK, written by American poet Dennis Cooper, tells the true story of Houston serial killer and necropedophiliac Dean Corll, through the eyes of one of his teenage accomplices, David Brooks. Brooks, superbly played by Jonathan Capdevielle, re-enacts stories of Corll's conquests (he killed at least 27 boys and had sex with their dismembered corpses) through the use of hand puppets.
The puppets are cathartic to Brooks, who attempts to come to a new understanding of his deeds through the reenactments. In between, he asks members of the audience to read short stories that precede the gruesome events. Having the sold-out crowd read together as music plays in the background was surprisingly compelling.
The most problematic device in the show is the use of a narrative frame, in which the audience is supposed to be students in a psychology class attending a Brooks-led prison lecture. It's redundant, one of those things that you use as an exploration tool in the rehearsal room. I get that it's a one-man show; we've all seen enough of one-man shows at OtB and elsewhere over the years to just accept the fact that there's a guy on stage talking at us without this crutch. After all, it's alienating enough to hear the show performed by an actor whose accent is more Paris, France than Paris, Texas. The added frame just confuses things.
Overall, though, the playwright, writer, and actor are skilled enough that we can trust them to lead us through this dark journey.
- Frank Chiachiere