In 1987, after teaching chimpanzees a four hundred-word vocabulary in American Sign Language, researchers at the University of Maryland undertook a study to see if the chimps could, in effect, write. The result of that study is "Blue Carrots for Eisenhower" (at The Experimental Place Theater), and it's one of the worst plays of this or any other season.
The setting is the pari-mutuel window at long-defunct Hialeah Race Track in Florida. An anthropomorphic soup spoon (Andy Soutar) enters and, without saying anything, jumps into a vat of molasses. Then a telegram (Eric Baumann) delivers itself, informing the soup spoon that he's the focus of a federal investigation into "Ponzi"—or "pyramid"—schemes on the West Coast. Still dripping with molasses, the spoon "beams" himself to the revolving restaurant atop the Seattle Space Needle, all the while telling us about his Uncle Abner, who disappeared during a dispute between the American Federation of Teachers and a Kellogg's Variety Pak.
Then things really get confused—and grim. A chimpanzee's life may be carefree, but you'd never know it from this long and depressing evening in the theater. Warning: Don't bring the kids.
Six times, by my count, we're treated to the sophomoric metaphor of an elderly black woman (Edna Weems) savagely beating a young white boy (Stephen Bain) with a rolled-up copy of the Bill of Rights.
In the second act, a green fly-swatter (Len Borut) testifies before a Senate sub-committee and describes automobile accidents in such graphic detail that several members of the audience had to leave.
And, if you hang around long enough, there's the predictable appearance of Marilyn Monroe (Veronica Bley), seen here servicing the Index of Leading Economic Indicators (Tom Wilk, Tad Arranel, Ollan Parr).
The most frightening moment occurs during what is, ostensibly, the final curtain. Just as you're getting up from your seat, the lights dim and it begins all over again!
Monica James, highly praised for her work in the revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at the Long Wharf, is cast as a box of Frosted Flakes. She's a delight.
The director, Frank Faraday, does the best he can with what he's been given. Lighting (Sarah Kramer), sets (Harold McGann), and scenic design (Marcia Powell) are all first-rate.
Quite simply, the problem with "Blue Carrots for Eisenhower" is that it was written by chimpanzees.