Big hat, no cattle

The comic pastiche “Separating men from bull” explodes male mythology.

Greg Corradini

Ah, men, those wooly beings of bestial id.

With all their scratching, snoring and rude table manners, it’s a wonder that women still consider them mating material. Yet we must remember that the spectrum of the modern male goes beyond the old troglodyte stereotype. There are gay men, fishermen, considerate men and scared men. And there is that strange breed of men who write plays in which they dress up like bulls.

Michael Heintzman and Neal Lerner are both actors and playwrights. They wrote and star in a play of seven vignettes depicting the struggles and humor in male relationships. In one of these pieces, Heintzman and Lerner dress up like bulls. Ladies and gentlemen, this is: “Separating Men from Bulls: (the mikeandneal show).”

Bold, dramatic productions with a huge cast of characters and epic heroes are fine and dandy. Sometimes, however, the theatrical palate craves something a little more familiar. With this in mind, we might ask what would have become of Macbeth had he traded his sword for say, a good and trusting friend?

In one vignette from “Separating Men,” Heintzman plays Man, a lonely modern male in need of a good buddy. One day Man decides to resolve the issue of his loneliness by going to a friend-finding department. Mister, played by Lerner, is a worker deeply committed to finding Man a friend.

Man and Mister are the only reoccurring characters throughout “Separating Men.” Their continual appearance seems to reinforce the absurdity of the male bonding process. Is this what men must resort to?

“Separating Men” was initially part of the Jungle Theater’s 11th annual Playreading Series in 2002.

Heintzman and Lerner have been working on this story during the last four years. In that time they have had more than enough opportunity to explore the different aspects of manliness. In “Separating Men” they each play seven of the 14 male characters.

“We had both been writing on our own,” Lerner said. “And we both realized that we were writing about men. Then we decided it would be fun to see what would happen if we gave some of the guys that we were writing about friends. So that’s really how it began. It’s been a process that we’ve been working on for years. We did workshops in New York City at a bunch of really good theaters with a bunch of other directors.”

Some of the sillier vignettes in “Separating Men” revolve around the more stereotypical notions of masculinity.

An especially funny scene has Heintzman and Lerner lumbering onstage on all fours with toilet paper rolls adorning their heads as horns. These two bulls, Teddy and Clyde, have come together to address their romantic problems.

Teddy, as it turns out, has been having trouble with the ladies. Instead of a clean, quick romp, the cows are getting restless and demanding more romance from their men.

In 2002 this scene, called “Shooting the Bulls,” was a finalist in the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville Ten-Minute Play Contest.

Miscellaneous objects litter the stage in “Separating the Bulls.” A ladder, birch tree and numerous boxes are not props in Heintzman and Lerner’s show. Instead, the Jungle Theater’s jumbled stage, in transition between two other productions, acts as the set.

This kind of chaotic background re-emphasizes the struggle behind Heintzman and Lerner’s characters.

The last scene of the play involves Henry and Robert. The two men are afloat on a raft in the Delaware River. Although their mutual friend has died, the communication between them is sparse.

Henry and Robert attempt to ceremoniously dispose of their friend’s ashes but botch the job when they drop the jar. In a moment of prayer and drunken revelry for the deceased, the two men reach for each other in a gesture of friendship and consolation. Too bad it takes a friend’s death to bring men together this way.