When Irate Eyes Are Smiling

The Year in Bad Theater

We're still figuring out the details, but the 2005 OC Weekly theater awards—which will take place sometime between early February and mid-March—will look back fondly on the best performances, shows and moments of the past year.

This ain't about them. Instead, we give you a small splattering of some of the worst or weirdest moments of the past year. Why? Because we'll be damned if our craniums are the only unlucky ones to have to remember them.

FEBRUARY Schoolhouse Rock Liveopens at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse. This show does brisk business with parents and kids, all of whom are giddy at the sight of adults leaping around like a bunch of eight-year-olds—and all of whom seem to completely miss the irony at the heart of one of the tunes: "Mother Necessity," a five-minute paen to the spirit of Yankee ingenuity that created such wonderful things as the cotton gin, the automobile and the factory. The shameless capitalist shilling prompts at least one rascally wag to write a review demanding equal time in the song for mentions of other creations fostered by Yankee ingenuity, such as Jim Crow, abortion-clinic bombings and Hiroshima.

MARCH Popcornopens at Rude Guerrilla. Some decent performances aside, this Ben Elton play is a dumb, stupid mess, although it does give some beefcake a chance to prance around in red butt-huggers. But that was one of the few highlights. At one point, one character is shot in the back of the neck. As she slumps to the ground, she moans (we shit you not), "It hurts." Lady, you have no idea.

APRIL What the Night Is For, a play about two greedy, selfish people desperate to stoke the fires of an old flame but who basically just sit around talking to each other all night, opens at the Laguna Playhouse. It's a yawner of a play, but it does give at least one rascally wag the chance to open his review with the following entry, salvaged from the rocky shoals of love: "If people could only learn to trust the universe and realize that the first sign of a love affair gone bad is the only perfect opportunity to get the fuck out, we'd be spared plays like Michael Weller's What the Night Is For.Unfortunately, so many of us are so locked into the beat-the-dead-horse-into-a-fleshy-pulp mode that, after a while, the maggots and bones start tasting so familiar we start feasting on them, rather than on anything with the semblance of a healthy relationship."

APRIL Anonymous, writing via e-mail, complains about a Calendar listing of Late Night Catechismthat describes its success as stemming from the fact that "Catholics hate themselves." Anonymous goes on to say the play is terrific and funny and that our attempt to sound cutting-edge is yet another reminder of why this rag is fitting birdcage liner. This prompts at least one rascally wag to respond, "Did I say Catholics hate themselves? Sorry; meant to say they only hate Jews." Somewhere, Mel Gibson smiles.

MAY Urinetown, the latest hot, cutting-edge import from New York City, is a musical set in a city in which piss is more valuable than gold. It opens at the Orange County Performing Arts Center to an enthusiastic, if somewhat confused, crowd. At least one rascally wag isn't impressed, writing, "It's clear Urinetown's success is less a credit to its novel originality and toilet-humor subject matter than the sad, sorry fact that so much of what passes as entertainment on Broadway really does smell, feel and look like piss."

JUNE Besides a production of Richard III at Insurgo set during the American Civil War (what the fuck?), nothing too sordid happened. At least one rascally wag was really, really drunk most of the month.

JULY The ghost of baseball hall-of-famer Rube Waddell—the subject of Rube!—is apparently seen by an accredited poltergeist observer at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center during the first show of the Orange County Theater Festival, a celebration of the county's storefront theater scene. Infinitely stranger, the play is written about by two sports columnists: T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times and Randy Youngman of The Orange County Register. Considering a Times mention of an Orange County theater not named South Coast Repertory or Laguna Playhouse is about as rare as a three-headed, ring-tailed ocelot sighting, and considering the Register's lead critic, Paul Hodgins, apparently goes into Damien-like convulsions at the prospect of entering any local theater also not called South Coast Repertory or Laguna Playhouse, it's a good day for small theater. By the way, I wrote Rube!

AUGUST After a two-year hiatus, the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble opens its new space in the best location for a storefront theater: right in the heart of downtown Fullerton's explosion of bars, clubs and restaurants. Unfortunately, the company doesn't decide to tap into the hundreds of under-30s who flock downtown three or four nights a week, instead opting for one of the most tired retreads on the community-theater circuit: Dial M for Murder.How's that for making a big splash? Also in August: the great American arm-wrestling musical Over the Top: Live!opens at something called the Starlight Theatre in Costa Mesa, and local theater dude Sean Hesketh gets his ass whomped in a boxing ring by his best pal, Chris Fowler, a pretty-boy five inches shorter than Hesketh.

SEPTEMBER Nearly half of the approximately 45 people who show up to see an all-male version of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest in Fullerton flee the show during intermission, upset by the sight of men dressed up as women. Somewhere, Mel Gibson smiles.

OCTOBER Something really bad happened this month. But the details are all fuzzy. All hail the glory of wet brain!

NOVEMBER The Guys, a two-person play about the personal fallout of Sept. 11, opens at the Vanguard. The play is sincere, if very boring, leading one rascally wag's date for the Sunday matinee to despise it so much that, upon conclusion, he turns and wraps his hands around said rascally wag's throat and hisses, "If you ever take me to a fucking play again, I'll kill you." The artistic director of the theater is two feet behind him.

DECEMBER Theater Editor Rich Kane passes on at least one rascally wag's half-hearted request to review the Glory of Christmas, something the Weekly hasn't touched in many years, not since said rascally wag wrote that the show was most offensive because it's staged inside a church that is a sterling reminder of how so many institutions have grown "fat and bloated on the blood of Christ." The Thursday performance is the show that would have been reviewed—the same night the Crystal Cathedral's musical director held himself hostage before killing himself. Just as knee-slapping funny, that weekend in Fullerton, the Reverend Slappy White's A Dolt's Only Xma$pageant goes off at Stages, with two of the most offensive highlights being Scott Peterson gratefully announcing that his ordeal has all been worth it, as it's led him closer to God and his spiritual side, and a white guy portraying Kobe Bryant in black face. Somewhere, Mel Gibson smiles.

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