Girls Gagging Grossly: Simulated Barf in Bachelorette
Humor based in male body functions have been a part of popular comedy for centuries—indeed, during the 1990s, the legendary Torso Theatre forged a reputation for plays featuring precisely such anal-infantile imagery—but the fashion nowadays is for women getting in touch with their grosser selves. Not just any women, either—in Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage, it's the chic young wife who takes ill and vomits all over the coffee table, and in Leslye Headland's Bachelorette, where a posh hotel's pristine bridal suite poses the irresistible invitation to defilement, the angry pill-popper may rip the wedding dress and the earthy coke-snorter succumb to nosebleed, but it's Katie, the former prom queen—played by Linda Augusta Orr—whose stomach rebels under the stress of alcohol and envy.
Theatrical replication of gastric effluvia presents much the same questions as that of blood effects: first, it must not splash where not wanted (on the audience, for example). Second, it must clean up quickly and easily. Finally, it must look like the real thing, but not too much.
"We've already heard Katie barfing offstage earlier," reports prop designer Eileen Rozycki, "For the onstage sequence, the script says 'vomit oozes out of Katie's mouth onto [the wedding] dress'—but when we tried it in rehearsal, it didn't read clearly enough, visually, so we decided to have her throw up on the white marble end-table instead."
How is the fluid brought in without our seeing it? "We had an upchuck scene in our 2004 production of Blackbird, where Lindsay Gould took a sip of the fake puke from a beer can right on the set, then spits it out a minute later. Linda, however, already has the liquid in her mouth when she staggers out of the bathroom into the suite, and it's awhile before she lets fly, so we had to find something that wouldn't make her really want to spew."
What did you end up using? "Since Katie doesn't have much more inside her than champagne, we started with plain water, but that didn't look like what we think vomit should look like. We'd used canned cream-of-chicken soup in Blackbird, but after some taste-testing, Linda decided that she liked the butternut-squash soup better—it's got the consistency and color, and it's a thin soup, so it mops up quickly with a towel." Rozycki chuckles, "We use a non-alcohol sparkling wine for the onstage drinking, so every now and then, we get a nice loud belch to start the sequence." All in the pursuit of art, of course.
Bachelorette runs at Profiles Theatre through April 29.
Mary Shen Barnidge
Follow Us On Twitter