Muscle-Man vs. Skeletonman: a love story...the musical
nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
August 21, 2006
If you toured Europe in a production of Grease with Richard J. Hinds and Ginamaria Trello, then by all means go see their FringeNYC offering, Muscle-Man vs. Skeletonman: A Love Story...the musical.
If you didn't, please don't bother.
Hinds and Trello—who wrote, composed, directed, choreographed, and star in the show—play, respectively, Prince Hector, a lisping pansy with a blond bob hairstyle, and Skeletonman, an ugly outcast who teases Prince Hector for being gay. Presented with a magic sword, Prince Hector becomes Muscle-Man, a lisping pansy with a blond bob hairstyle and a magic sword. If these types sound vaguely familiar, that's because they're spoofs of the characters from the 1980s cartoon Masters of the Universe, which was set in Eternia (here called Queerternia) and featured He-Man and his nemesis Skeletor. Masters of the Universe was pretty darned gay in its own right, which renders Muscle-Man vs. Skeletonman pretty much pointless.
Unfortunately, it's also witless, plotless, and tuneless. For all the screams of laughter that greeted every use of the term “booty slam” (a phrase and gesture created on that European tour of Grease, according to the program notes), there's not a single word or note said or sung that qualifies as even passingly funny to anyone on the outside of what looks to be an overlong inside joke. Don't bother looking for story, character, humor, or intelligent (or even intelligible) lyrics here. Vulgarity can be hilarious, spoof can be a riot, and mining the popular culture for homo undertones can work like gangbusters. In Muscle-Man vs. Skeletonman, sadly, vulgar is vulgar, and there's an end. The only wit comes in the choreography, which is sometimes very nicely done.
As a group, the performers seem to have been directed to find one and only one approach to take, and to cling to it for dear life. So Hinds lisps, making every word garbled; Trello employs a whiny wheedle; Jesse Factor as the Sorceress attempts to be a grand drag diva; Jalynn Yvonne Steele as Shaniqua offers sass and sex appeal, though no character; the list goes on, with pretty much equally disastrous results. Sarah Bolt finds a couple of genuinely funny moments in two roles, and Marla Mindelle, in a series of tiny bits, is by far the funniest actor on stage (particularly in her opening gambit as a conductor, which promises comedy never to come). But on the whole, the actors seem as unpolished as the musical in which they find themselves.
The Fringe Festival provides an opportunity for ragtag theater troupes to create rough-edged pieces that still have an essential quality to them. In Muscle-Man vs. Skeletonman: A Love Story...the musical, however, that quality is nil.