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Pudding Rhinestones in the Rough from now until Bermuda

By Frank Rich

WHO IS the Hasty Pudding Club and what do they want from us?

This is the question that came into my mind-and indeed refused to leave-shortly after the curtain went up on this organization's 123rd (it boggles the mind) Theatrica, Rhinestones in the Rough, last night.

Having nothing much to occupy myself with during the following three hours. I think I came up with some answers to my questions. In any case. I adjusted the knot on my tie to perfection and did a simply terrific job of cleaning the fingernails of my left hand.

But let me not digress. The Hasty Pudding Club, I think, is a group of clean-cut young men who get drunk on Saturday nights and gleefully plot the molestation of young girls at Garland Junior College. Now, as for what they want from us-well, that's the tough part.

Given that the word "Theatrical" implies things pertaining to the theatre, I might suspect that these Hasty Pudding people want to entertain us. Put a song in our hearts, a laugh in our throats, and a tap in our toes. This, I have been told, is what the Hasty Pudding is all about-and so I tell you, for on the evidence of their show alone, you just might not guess what these people are up to.

Rhinestones in the Rough is a bad musical that also manages to be offensive along the way. (I might also point out that the auditorium it is presented in has the atmospheric requirements for a sauna bath, and the seats are arranged in such a way as to leave ample legroom for dwarfs.) By bad I mean bad -tuneless, humorless, structureless. (On this last point, I could explain how the show actually collapsed into its conclusion a half-hour before the final curtain fell, but I'll save that one for my friends who had the sense to leave the premises at intermission.)

Bad musicals, of course, can be fun if you're in a tolerant frame of mind. I've seen plenty of stupid little shows in the past ten years, and they have not been without their small pleasantries. In any case, they are at least harmless. Rhinestones in the Rough, on the other hand, demands no tolerance, for it is nasty and insulting. The sniggering in Page Grubb's book is aimed at women, radicals, and (for reasons I fail to comprehend) Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Particularly women. To call a Hasty Pudding show sexist does not begin to get at the heart of the problem. These musicals, in which (as tradition might have it) female parts are played by men, could possibly make their devices work by playing the whole thing coy and cute (a la the British pantomimes). This time around, however, all the ammunition has been brought out: it is as if two hundred years of hostile homosexual humor have been siphoned into this one little musical, and God is it depressing. It is sad that Harvard is not the kind of place that will let its homosexual community come out of the closet, and, until it does, I guess the centuries of repression will continue to surface in such misogynic entertainment's as Rhinestones. Why the presumably well-meaning group of people associated with this show would want to play at being repressed homosexuals for the sole purpose of furthering a bankrupt tradition beats me.

But probably the reason the cast and creators of this musical go to such lengths and expense to embarrass themselves is that this is what their audience wants. Hasty Pudding musicals apparently are created to give brief life to the naive, sick fantasies of pathetic old final clubbies and their frigid wives. On opening night, this segment of the audience went wild with hysteria over every tasteless innuendo. This does not cover up the fact that these people missed the boat when it came to sex, and Rhinestones in the Rough is nothing if not an entertainment for those who think masturbation is a way of life.

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