Women Behind Bars, Tom Eyen's terrifically funny homage to—and skewering of—low-budget Hollywood sex exploitation films was first produced in 1974 and is set in the '50s. Though it predates such twisted late-'70s TV soap operas as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and the Australian women-behind-bars gem Prisoner: Cell Block H, there are obvious parallels. Eyen, who contributed some scripts to Hartman, infuses his play with the same sense of dementia, hypercharged sexuality and tongue-in-cheek satire that proved so controversial in Hartman it was relegated to late-night viewing in most markets. The parallel with Prisoner: Cell Block H is even more pronounced: lipstick lesbians, bull dykes, working-class losers and sadistically corrupt guards unleashed in an all-women prison.
The result is a play that is just as twisted and lusty as those shows that have helped Rude Guerrilla claim its niche as one of Southern California's most viscerally oriented, provocative theaters. But who knew the troupe could pull something off this mind-blowingly funny?
Women Behind Bars at Rude Guerrilla Theater Co., Empire Theater, 200 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 547-4688. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; also Thurs., Sept. 21, 8 p.m. Through Sept. 23. $10-$18.