Photo by Ed Krieger/Laguna PlayhouseOh, there were some wonderfully witty and creative things written about local theater in 2002. We praised the good, buried the bad and basically screwed with everything in between. But never in all the name-calling, potty-mouthing, brain-enhancing or button-pushing did we forget the absolutely critical part of covering local theater: making people think we're really, really clever.
And one thing we clever people have learned is that plays are like families: all good ones are the same; all bad ones are different. Or is it the other way around? Anyway, one thing is clear: writing about bad plays is a lot more fun. Here's some of the best things written about the worst plays of 2002, all smushed together. . . .
Nothing so nakedly exposes the mediocrity and blandness of the white soul more than the homespun, folksy characters who populate the world of this play, a stultifying piece of theater that is as lifeless and inconsequential as its characters.
Much of the play, especially its more political layers, plays out as if the playwright suddenly came across a secret history of the world—or accidentally tuned into KPFK—and the knowledge was such a whopping revelation that he felt the need to get as much agit-info out there as he could.
Instead of stirring us with provocative answers, this production put me to sleep. Twice. And I wasn't even tired. And I'm not on heroin anymore. So my totally subjective opinion of the play? It's a frightful bore with the dramatic tension of string cheese.
Based on the general lack of humor on the night I saw the show—the laugh lines that fall as flat as Jerry Lewis, the perfunctory physical comedy, the flaccid comic timing—this bittersweet comedy can be labeled one thing: unfunny.
It's not just the references to Billy Joel, Mork & Mindy, Nicaragua and Schlitz Malt Liquor, nor the pre-ADD and -MTV three-hour running time that dates the sketches. It's also the preachy, smug, self-congratulatory "we're all enlightened, sensitive women, and men are all foul-mouthed crotch-grabbers with big egos and small pricks" school of feminism that, with a few exceptions, died out with bra burning and tasting your menstrual fluid.
Highlights include: a full-grown—and naked-ass-naked!—Satan Figure who pops out of this chick's pregnant womb and starts gnawing on the placenta! (Added bonus: he's well-hung, too!)
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But his counterpart as Jesus, Skid Row's Sebastian Bach, is anemic. Bach is, well, pretty—but he can't act his way out of a pair of red-spandex pants. This JC screams like a true rock & roll savior, but mostly he just seems crapped-out on Percocet. Or maybe he's just thinking about his hair.
By burdening this light-as-air piece with a Sept. 11 subtext, the director not only makes it work against the parodic intent of the playwrights and yanks us out of the re-creation of a more innocent past, but also takes real grief and tragedy and turns it into maudlin kitsch.
It's like we said in the '80s: fuck art; let's dance!
Courtesy of reviews from: Getting Frankie Married . . . And Afterwards, South Coast Repertory; Truth and Beauty, Rude Guerrilla Theater Co.; Copenhagen, Laguna Playhouse; Jumping for Joy, Laguna Playhouse; Parallel Lives, Loud *r* Mouth Theater Co.; Madame Guignol's Funhouse, Hunger Artists Theatre Co. (which our reviewer actually liked but we couldn't resist including here, for obvious reasons);Jesus Christ Superstar, McCoy/Rigby Entertainment; Swingtime Canteen, La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts;Playing with the Pieces, Cal State Long Beach.