“The Great Masturbators”

by Keri Carlson

5:30 p.m. Wednesday, 4 p.m. Friday,

Jungle Theater

“The Great Masturbators” is not about masturbation or sex, at least not exclusively, yet the title is perfect.

The play peeks in on the conversations of three surrealist artists in Spain in the 1920s: Luis Bunuel, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Salvador Dali. The three – sometimes companions and collaborators, other times enemies and rivals – discuss their neuroses, their art and the meaning of the surrealist movement. And when things get too heavy, they ponder dressing up as nuns and throwing urine on soldiers.

Like the title, the play delves into the artists’ self-indulgent rants and ostentatious theories about what art is and should be. But before the script becomes overly pompous, the actors delightfully portray the quirks and absurdities of the artists. “The Great Masturbators” deals with complex art theory but is not afraid to admit or expose the b.s. of it all.

Director Paul von Stoetzel achieves this with actors willing to show the bright-eyed excitement of the surrealists and especially by adding a character as bizarre and seemingly random as a melted figure in a Dali painting. Bucket-Head (Michael Russinik) stumbles drunkenly on stage with – as his name would suggest – a bucket over his head. Russinik’s job is to make the transition between scenes and place them in a historical context, but more importantly to give a non-art-major version of what’s happening.

With a character that could have easily tarnished the play, Russinik delivers comedy gold while giving the play more accessibility to audience members who haven’t read the surrealist chapter in their art history books.