nytheatre.com review by Jason Jacobs
August 16, 2011
A group of glee club misfits are terrorized by a lurking serial killer in this parody from Washington, D.C.’s Landless Theatre Company, that mashes-up a certain mega-hit television series with a certain ironic slasher movie series. The characters tell us up front that, in order to avoid copyright infringement, they can only be identified by their stereotype category. That established, first victim is spotlight-hungry Drama Queen (played by curvy burlesque performer Honi Harlow). Her boyfriend, Sensitive Jock (Harv Lester), becomes more suspicious with each new killing, much to the dismay of adoring Gay Kid (Jase Parker). Could the killer be blonde Pregnant Slut (Judith Baicich), who schemes to convince Sensitive Jock he’s responsible for her second pregnancy, or Tough Jock (Matt Baughman), who is really the father of her child? Or is it geeky Wheelchair Kid (Phil Sphincter), or sassy Black Girl (Justine Hall) or one of the other cheerleader Sluts (Ally Jenkins and Lucrezia Blozia, who is in fact a large man)? As if Teacher (Chase Maggiano)—admired for his abs and curls—doesn’t face enough conflict from dykey Cheerleader Coach (also played by Harlow), with the members of this music group dropping off like flies, will anyone live to compete in finals?
Fans of the sources may enjoy seeing familiar plots and situations repurposed here and appreciate how Andrew Lloyd Baughman’s script plays with its sources and mimics their glib, self-aware tone. Characters articulate what NOT to do in a slasher movie (such as: never have sex or say “I’ll be right back”) even as they ignore the rules and suffer the consequences. A double date at Breadsticks starts with bisexual flirtation and ends with a double killing. Murders are playfully represented by blood-curling screams offstage, punctuated by casual shrugs by onstage survivors.
More an extended skit with a splattering of songs than a fully-realized musical, the show contains some unmemorable tunes by Baughman with lyrics by Phil Close that mostly extend the stereotype jokes (such as “Public Lesbian Make-out” and the gospel-style “Black Don’t Crack”). A chorus of three fresh-faced choir boys (Philip McLeod, Patrick Prebula, Brad Rakushin) provide back-up and familiar a cappella interstitials in the style of said mega-hit television show. Charles W. Johnson is credited with vocal arrangements and musical direction, but—unfortunately for a parody of a musical show—musicianship does not seem to be a priority for this production.
I will say there were intense technical problems with sound at the performance I attended. The entire cast is on microphones, but, perhaps due to restrictions of FringeNYC productions, it seems that no sound check happened before the show. The actors struggled to speak and sing over loud levels of crackling, static, and popping in the sound system; some of them took the mics off as the show went on, while others continued amplified. I question the need for amplified sound in such an intimate space, especially in an otherwise no-tech production. It distracted me and probably distracted these actors from truly having fun with this silly material.
I’m open to smart pop culture spoofs, but this piece never adds up to more than the sum of its parts or delivers the fun it promises. I wish the creative team approached the style more respectfully and aimed for a higher standard of camp. Director Emily Ann Jablonski provides loose staging (often leaving her actors standing center stage in a straight row), unfocussed choreography, and scant attention to acting. Even in a parody of parodies, shouldn’t the characters display some concern for their glee club and fear for their lives? While a few cast members offer canny impersonations of their televised inspirations (Maggiano, Parker, and Baicich are especially on-target), none of these performances goes beyond goofing around. Elizabeth D. Reeves’s precise costumes do more to establish character than the either the script or the direction. I don’t want to kill anyone’s fun, but I must say this production has a long way to go before its ready for prime time.