SALT LAKE CITY — Ubu Roi, written by Alfred Jarry (directed by Jordan Reynosa), is an interactive, absurdist comedy featuring Juls Marino as Papa Turd, who wants to kill King Wenceslaus (played by Mauri Hefley) after being egged on by his wife, Mama Turd (played by Charlotte Walkey). As can be gleamed by the characters’ names, the play is both serious — the King is murdered, his crown taken, as Papa Turd commences to destroy Poland — and lively: there is a scene where audience members are invited to go into “the trap” as the new King of Poland begins to kill his magistrate, the judiciaries, and even average every day citizens such as parents who use their kids to make TikTok content and Judy Garland.
The absurdist quality is most poignant in the costuming (designed by Jordan Reynosa). All the characters are wearing green onesies with black markings on them and unusual appendages attached to them. These outfits are worn throughout the entire play, with only small prop changes to notify some changes between the characters (such as Walkey, who plays both Mama Turd and the Queen; her role as Queen is marked by a silver crown). But not all characters received the same treatment, and it became difficult to keep track of who was who (especially if the king had supposedly murdered everyone earlier in the play) but also some characters get introduced once, but not again, but the audience must remember them throughout the performance. Even though the overall story was easy to follow, some details seemed to have gotten lost or dropped.
The play makes great use of lighting. In the monologue where Mama Turd is recounting her escape from Poland, the lights are a soft green and blue hue that also signals early morning darkness (allowing her to pretend to be an archangel). There are the same blue and green lights when Papa Turd (as the king) is about to torture someone.
Ubu Roi includes audience participation. The projector cues the audience when to boo, cheer, or scream. Audience members are also invited to join the play — though not in speaking roles — such as when there is a giant noodle fight between everyone to simulate a battle during the war. Participating in the action is optional, but I highly recommend it, especially for people attending the play with friends or family.
Even though Ubu Roi‘s comedic beats come primarily from Marino, Papa Turd is prevalent in almost every scene, leaving a lot to laugh at. Ubu Roi is a great show for people who enjoy their theatre on the more unusual side with a dash of audience participation and political intrigue.