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The Artificial Jungle

From 15 critic and 113 member reviews
Members say: Funny, Entertaining, Quirky, Clever, Delightful

About the show

Theater Breaking Through Barriers revives Charles Ludlam's comic noir, which pulls from works as diverse as 'Double Indemnity' and 'Therese Raquin' in its tale of love, murder, and piranha fish! More…

Chester Nurdiger lives in the back of his pet shop with his mother and his bored wife, Roxanne. One day, slick drifter Zachary Slade comes along and is hired to work in the shop. After sparks ignite between Roxanne and Zachary, they plot to murder Chester and feed him to the piranhas.


"Anyone who saw the original 'The Artificial Jungle' in 1986 will find the current revival a blast from the past and a replica production. That's because it's directed with real pizzazz and flair by Everett Quinton, who was a star of the original production, and he knows exactly what made it work in the first place. The revival is in celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“The production provides plenty of hilarity, thanks to Quinton's direction and a cast that knows that the surest route to big laughs involves playing this absurdly steamy melodrama for keeps…Quinton, who knows this property better than anyone alive, orchestrates the action with gusto…The director handles these high-camp proceedings with total deadpan assurance, keeping his cast from signaling to the audience that they know they're in a comedy.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"Directed into 100 minutes of quick-paced theatrical excellence by Ludlam’s talented partner Everett Quinton. 'The Artificial Jungle' mixes all human emotions into a stew of wonderful theater...The delight of most Ludlam plays is to take the structure of classical text and add layers of parody, camp performance, and fun. 'The Artificial Jungle' succeeds on all these levels...The cast is fantastic across the board." Full Review


"A riotous revival...Thirty years later, the play still feels subversive, witty, and even eerily relevant....Under the steady direction of Everett Quinton, the entire cast unflinchingly commits to each beat...Even when you're laughing at the suspense-genre tropes, you can't help jump in your seat when they take you by surprise...Lest you think 'The Artificial Jungle' is merely a camp-fest, good for laughs and nothing more, a sly social critique emerges." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"'The Artificial Jungle' is lovingly and faithfully directed by award-winning actor/playwright Everett Quinton...The energetic, dedicated cast seems to be having as much fun as the audience. All of the players excel at both the fast-paced physical comedy as well as with their dead-on delivery of the script’s endless comedic torpedoes, fired so fast that the audience often doesn’t see them coming." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“The hilarious, campy style of Charles Ludlam lives on in this excellent revival...The play and production, like Ludlam, is indeed ridiculous, so if you’re looking for sincere, heartfelt fare, this is not it. But if you’re looking to celebrate the artificial limitations of theatre, and laugh at the ridiculousness of stock characters, a fabricated plot, and phony-baloney horror, ‘The Artificial Jungle’ will make you smile. I can’t think of a better way to honor Ludlam’s memory." Full Review

Drama Queen NYC

"Essential queer theatre viewing–and one hell of a lot of fun...The director for this production is Ludlam’s husband and muse, Everett Quinton. Quinton is the ideal interpreter of Ludlam’s plays, knowing when to be loyal to what Ludlam had already done, and when to push things even further into preposterousness to keep it fresh. Quinton has a marvelous cast to work with, who seem to truly get it...Hilarious, and highly recommended." Full Review

The Reviews Hub

"This is a fearless production, helmed by Everett Quinton. The script is strange, the premise is absurd, and there are puppet piranhas (brilliantly and comically executed by Satoshi Haga). It is uncomfortable in all the right ways, and even if the humor isn’t your typical preference, the talent in, and skilled execution of, this play, are undeniable. It is a delightful, murderous, piranha-filled romp." Full Review

Reviews Off Broadway

"'The Artificial Jungle' plays as 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' done via a Carol Burnett skit, set in a Lower East Side pet store. It is goofy, farcical and very funny. The play, by the prolific Charles Ludlam, is loud and preposterous but doesn't fall to slapstick. It all works because the terrific actors might be playing everything over-the-top, but they take it seriously. They pull out all the stops without ever breaking character. It is this group of professionals that sell this jungle." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"It surprised my inpatient mind with plenty of amusement once it got rolling, though it needed to percolate a little sooner...Anita Hollander, as Mama Nurdlinger, is really the stand out actor here...I felt that the male characters of Zachary Slade played by Anthony Michael Lopez and David Harrell as Chester needed to work on keeping it broad while keeping it balanced. It was a pleasure the nonetheless." Full Review

Time Out New York

"After wobbling in tone and pace, the production pops to life in its much briefer second act, a straightforwardly silly travesty of 'Thérèse Raquin.' Alyssa H. Chase plays a trashy Venus flytrap of an unfaithful wife—as though 'Little Shop of Horrors's' Audrey had the soul of Audrey II—and the capable Anthony Michael Lopez is the sexy drifter she ropes into crime. A grinning puppet piranha provides welcome comic bravado; this is a rare play where the scenery chews the actors." Full Review


“A fun evening of silly entertainment…For this revival, director Everett us more smiles and appreciative chuckles than guffaws and belly laughs…The cast as a whole does well with their roles, but because the plot itself is predictable, there are only a few surprises. The best of these involve the participation of the marvelous piranhas…They are full of personality, and enrich the production tenfold.” Full Review

Theater In The Now

“A welcome reminder of the brilliance of Charles Ludlam. But the production doesn't come without some imperfections…The subversive styling of ‘The Artificial Jungle’ holds up all these years later. It's wonderfully ridiculous…The comedy needed to be much sharper. The text was there. The staging faltered...The five-piece ensemble went big and bold with a tinge of reality, and played into the hands of the audience...It may not be perfection but it certainly is cheeky." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Moderately amusing revival…Much of this can be humorous but it no longer packs the comic punch it had in 1986…While the exaggerated acting is more or less in tune with Ludlam's intentions, it can do little with lines that too often thud and situations that are wildly overstated…The show's drollest moments, though, come from those ravenous piranhas, represented by puppets...Their reactions to what's going on offer the show's most hilarious contribution." Full Review

The New York Times

"It’s that touch of zaniness that’s lacking in this revival by Theater Breaking Through Barriers...Even under Mr. Quinton’s direction, the cast members strain rather than perform and don’t appear to enjoy a gourmand’s taste for riotous, yet disciplined, scenery-chewing. Ms. Chase comes closest with a ripe Noo Yawk accent that drips over her lines like hot fudge on a sundae. But even a tasty dessert can’t rescue a pallid main course." Full Review

King of the jungle

See it if Tight ensemble works like a Swiss watch. Bank on Chase, pretty and sassy leading lady. Just buy into the situation and let farce entertain.

Don't see it if You hate farce and need a steady drama diet.

Also Piranhas are the silent stars. It happily extended, proof of a crowd p... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Funny, Great acting

See it if you like camp humour.

Don't see it if you don't have a sense of humour

Campy, delicious fun with fab puppets

See it if You appreciate the utterly ridiculous, especially if it comes with piranha puppets (and a great soundtrack)

Don't see it if You want serious or substantive

Entertaining, Funny, Quirky

See it if you enjoy campy comedy from the Theater of the Ridiculous with over the top acting.

Don't see it if you want something serious, less "fringe-ie" and more conservative.

Clever, Funny, Silly, Entertaining

See it if you saw Therese Raquin and wished it was a comedy.

Don't see it if you have no sense of humor.

Funny, Great acting, Quirky, Fluffy, Clever

See it if you love farce. Or if you have fond memories of the Ridiculous Theatre company. If is goofy and fun - a modern day Carol Burnett sketch.

Don't see it if you hate farce. Or if you want a serious night out.

Ambitious, Fluffy, Quirky

See it if you want to see a bunch of committed actors taking on this "iconic" piece (including the piranha). Kudos to the members of the TBTB.

Don't see it if your not a fan of campy, over the top humor.

Clever, Entertaining, Quirky, Fluffy, Delightful

See it if You like dark comedy, camp & definitely over the top performances by a talented cast, see this show. It's laugh out loud funny at times.

Don't see it if Don't like camp or the ridiculous, want thought provoking work or expect a serious show...this is not for you.

Also Kudos to Theatres Breaking Through Barriers for making it possible for... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Funny, Cliched, Campy

See it if you want a taste of what Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Co. was about in its hey day.

Don't see it if you do not like campy humor though, there are some real belly laughs here.

Cliched, Dated, Funny

See it if You are interested in old film noir movies.

Don't see it if You are looking for something more than a spoof on film noir. I was looking for more camp! I missed The Ridiculous company!

Entertaining, Quirky, Fluffy, Edgy, Funny

See it if You appreciate camp, over the top shows. You appreciate a small, diverse cast. You can suspend reality to enjoy the absurd.

Don't see it if You are excited about a true murder mystery show. You don't like predictable storylines. You need high tech special effects.

Entertaining, Disappointing, Slow, Well staged, Raunchy

See it if Ludlam's rarely seen campy send up of Postman Always Rings Twice gets a 'straightened' but limp production by Ridiculous alumnus Quinton

Don't see it if Well staged & intentioned but w/o high camp quotient becomes stodgy & slow Actors work hard w/Chase coming closest The piranhas steal show

Funny, Quirky

See it if you like nice sets and funny, quirky gimmicks.

Don't see it if you're critical of acting or understanding of a genre, which I feel this production didn't fully comprehend.

Disappointing, Funny, Quirky, Slow

See it if you want to see this Ludlam revival

Don't see it if you are looking for high end camp and Ridiculous Theatre excellence

Also While it was great to see this version of Charles Ludlam's play, the a... Read more Read less

Funny, Intelligent

See it if think you might enjoy an homage to Thérèse Raquin generously peppered with Mel Brooks’ camp.

Don't see it if don't like farce

Great writing, Clever, Cute, Funny, Quirky

See it if your only acquaintance with Charles Ludlam is "Irma Vep" because the guy wrote a lot of plays and this one hasn't dated at all.

Don't see it if you're expecting high camp or something deliriously gay as the current production is more like a noir sitcom with a few good sight gags.

Entertaining, Funny, Humerous, Silly, Campy

See it if you want some pure, fun escapist entertainment.

Don't see it if you are not interested in cliches made hilarious.

Funny, Quirky, Ridiculous

See it if You are a fan of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company or other absurd/ satirical theater. Everett Quinton's work is evident and worth studying

Don't see it if Absurdity is not your idea of fun.

Campy, Quirky, Slow

See it if you like over-the-top campy dark comedies with somewhat obvious plots.

Don't see it if you prefer subtle intelligent comedy.

Stylized, Tonally confused, Fluffy, Messy, Great puppets

See it if you like campy stylized shows regardless of how well produced they are.

Don't see it if you expect a well-paced, specifically directed show when you see a show that deals with heightened style.

Banal, Cliched, Disappointing, Excruciating, Insipid

See it if You like over-the-top campy theatre with an unrealistic plot that is heightened by absurdism of the highest order.

Don't see it if You want to see an evenly talented cast that can do justice to the play...


See it if you want to numb your brain

Don't see it if to see smart funny or decent theatre

Banal, Cliched, Dated, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if You can stand bad comedy, camp, cheesy acting, bad taste. You like not just "B Movies" but "F Movies." You're a "So awful, its decent" type.

Don't see it if Want good acting, a good story, or something meaningful. The actors and story are exceptionally bad in this one. Cliché city. My brain died.

Banal, Raunchy, Slow, Excruciating, Disappointing

See it if You have a simple mind and don't know funny. Watch the lead actress get banged and moan in a vulgar, explicit, and pointless sex scene. Why?

Don't see it if You want quality - this is not. All the actors are one-note and ill-trained. This is a stupid premise and tasteless material. Awful rip-off.

Also Excruciating 2 hours, without a real laugh. Not a single joke was orig... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You want to laugh your head off.

Don't see it if You like only serious theatre.