Columbia, the Germ of the Ocean
Julia Pearlstein in a scene from Columbia, the Germ of the Ocean
Author: Trav S.D.
Description: A Ridiculous-style lampoon of the 4 voyages of Columbus to the New World, in which Columbus is a woman who talks like Chico Marx.
NOTE: Columbia, the Germ of the Ocean is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to travsd.wordpress.com.
Original Production Information
Columbia the Germ of the Ocean was written in 1992 in honor of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the America's, and premiered in October 2002 at the Bindlestiff Palace of Variety, at Chashama, with the following cast and credits:
Columbia: Julia Pearlstein
Don Travo: Trav S.D.
Father Lothario: Tim Cusack
Ferdinand: Michael Lester
Isabella: Celia Montgomery
King Baldeo: Daniel Kleinfeld
King Ralph: Edward Einhorn
Brother Agnello, et al: Michael Whitney
Ramirez, et al: Scott Ebersold
Juan, et al: Art Wallace
Giacomo: John Devore (cut)
Directed and Designed by: Ian W. Hill, assisted by Berit Johnson
Stage Manager: Margaret Bodriguian
Review by Martin Denton
Columbia, the Germ of the Ocean, the historical travesty from the pen of Trav S.D., is a throwback to good old-fashioned burlesque. No, not the kind where ladies take all their clothes off; really old-fashioned burlesque, as practiced by Weber & Fields and their contemporaries in the early part of the 20th century. The formula was: start with a familiar story, take every liberty with it you can think of, poke fun at topical and classical targets, and mix vigorously. Mr. S.D. has done exactly this in his conscientiously silly retelling of the story of Christopher Columbus. There's even a moral, sort of.
In this version, Columbus is a woman—Columbia, who looks like a Neapolitan street singer (well, street-something), with several bunches of grapes hanging from her belt, and a Chico Marx accent (and Chico's tendency to mangle the English language with terrible puns). She persuades Isabella and Ferdinand to let her try out her crazy theory of sailing west to India, and then embarks on a series of four voyages, during which she discovers the Isle of the Kerouacs (who introduce her to the local psychedelic drug of choice, which becomes a big hit in Spain); the Isle of Cannibals (who are talked into the culinary practice associated with their name by a megalomaniacal former Inquisitor named Father Lothario); and, incidentally, love with her first mate, Rivera.
Columbia's plot is convoluted by design, so as to provide room for all manner of shtick, shameless jokes, sight gags, and the occasional pointed satirical barb. I found enough of these funny to leave the theatre in a good mood. The ensemble is spotty, with expert comic performances turned in by Julia Pearlstein in the title role, Tim Cusack as her nemesis Father Lothario, Daniel Kleinfeld as Bladeo, King of the Kerouacs, and Edward Einhorn as a Cannibal King so low-key he's practically not there. Mr. S.D. is hilarious as military mastermind Don Travo and in cameos as a Kerouac and a Cannibal.
review of the original production in 2002
Excerpt from Columbia, the Germ of the Ocean
3. Santa Maria. COLUMBIA and RAMIREZ, her first mate, meet on deck.
It’s a good-a weather for sailing, eh, Signore Ramirez?
But, admiral, we’re in the doldrums!
Den do what I always-a do--sing a happy song! (hums “Habañera”)
No, no, no, sir. I mean the wind.
What-a wind? I no see-a no wind.
That’s what I mean, sir.
Oh. But we make-a good time, huh?
It’s the current, sir. But it’s taking us off course. We’re heading southward instead of due west.
Ay! Who’s-a da captain here, you or-a me? I know what I’m-a doin’, so joosta sit back an’-a leave a da drivin to me!
Admiral, I feel it’s only right to tell you, the men are rapidly losing confidence in you. There’s a lot of grumbling going on. I fear if we don’t sight land soon, there’s going to be a mutiny!
Whattayamean, “if-a we don’t sight-a land soon”? I already a-tole you, we gonna hit land tomorrow! Domanni! Domanni!
But, sir, you’ve been saying that for weeks.
An’ I still say we gonna hit land tomorrow. Tomorrow is soon an’-a soon is presto an’-a presto is domanni an’-a domanni is tomorrow an’-a tomorrow is soon! You see? I got ‘em all worked out. Why joost dis morning I seen a flock o’ what looked like big a grey gooses flyin overhead.
Those were sea gulls, sir.
Yeah? I no speak-a da language too good. An’ a-not two hours ago I pick outta da water whatta look to me like river-grass.
That’s sea weed, sir.
No, no, atsa river grass. If you gonna still say itsa sea weed, we gonna make a test: you can eat it, an’ find out den which it is, eh?
Wait, you’re right...yes! Come to think of it, that looks more like river grass.
Atsa good, atsa fine. An’ a dis-a stick here--whale bone or drift wood?
You catch on-a quick, Ramirez.