Laura Harrell on the Musical Trip of Party Mouth
Party Mouth, Matthew Posey's latest play at the Ochre House, is a tale of two best friends named Baby Doll (Elizabeth Evans) and Bunny (Natalie Young). They shoot up, smoke, snort and drink a day away in a cramped Dallas apartment circa the late '60s, while three n'er-do-well men and Baby Doll's equally addicted parents enter stage left and right, egging them on to the inevitable climax.
Natalie Young and Elizabeth Evans of Party Mouth
But it's got funny parts, and a lot of door-slamming as punctuation. It poses some big existential questions, too, mostly via Andy Warhol (Trenton Stephenson), who wanders in and out of scenes, giving obtuse cosmic advice to Baby Doll, like: "History doesn't repeat itself, people do."
And though there are a few of those stop-and-think moments in the play, what stuck with me, days later, was the music, especially the final number, loosely titled "We Go Bye Bye Now." The score - original music by Laura Harrell and Trey Pendergrass of local duo Romp Almighty and Posey himself - is a mix of '60s pop/country and more avant garde accents, balancing upbeat numbers with more menacing interludes. It was written at the same time Posey was writing the script, and accompanies Party Mouth's action just out of sight, in the shadows, Pendergrass on keyboards and drums, Harrell on guitar, Posey on cello.
I chatted with Harrell, who also has a new band called Party Static, about the music of Party Mouth, and how they are the play's subconscious.
I don't want to ruin it for the reader or play-goer, but the band does something ceremonial at the beginning and second half.
Yes, that's in the script. Matt wrote that song, the "What the Fuck" song. We're the choral subconscious. There's a traditional theater term for it.
Like a Greek chorus?
Yeah, something like that.
How long did it take to put together the score?
We started working on it three or four weeks beforehand. Matt will sometimes just write the song title, and we go from there.
Did you go into this play with that looseness?
This is my third time working with Matt, so I know what kind of sound he likes. Sometimes he wouldn't tell me about the scene, he would just tell me the song title. Like, the "Chili's At the Airport" song. That's how that happened. Or he'll be like, "I need a song called 'Why Do You Hate Sunflowers So Much', and I need it by rehearsal!"
And the "My Boo" song, which takes a modern term and adds it into a more traditional theatrical number with Baby Doll's parents.
That one Matt wrote, it was in the script. I came up with the melody, but Kevin [Grammer] and Carla [Parker] thought of all those harmonies.
And the last song, "We Go Bye Bye Now." Tell me about that.
That one was so fun. Mitchell [Parrack] wrote some of it, Matt made up the title. Elizabeth came up with the melody. That one had that most cooks in the kitchen.
What's going on with Romp Almighty?
Romp Almighty will live on forever. Trey and I don't even really need to practice anymore to play a show. But if anyone asked us to play a show, we will.
Ten minutes or so after our chat, Harrell called back to add this: "I don't think I said enough about Trey," she laughed. "...He's the glue that holds us together on stage."
Party Mouth closes on Saturday, September 29, at Ochre House.