What can you say about a four-member band that mostly died? How about that they rock? Or that they totally kick butt, man? Or how about is this not the best rock band in which three-quarters of the players are dead in all of human history?
The genius of the Diamond Dead is that they undertook their comeback after they died. If only the Stones could master this concept, they’d be as big as they were back in the day. And the best thing about the Diamond Dead is when they improvise – they’re composing while they’re decomposing.
To compliment the truly excellent Hartley-Cooper score, Andrew Baughman adds his own sensitive and moving book. It appears that band leader Dr. Diabolicus (Baughman) is profoundly in love with the band’s only living member, songstress Aria de Winter (Karissa Swanigan), who actually was the one who killed all the other band members but who managed to swing a deal with Death (uncredited) to reanimate them. But he knows that there’s no future for a dead man and a live woman. Besides, her father would never accept him.
Between really rockin’ songs, Diabolicus and his band wax philosophical, even theological. The relive their post-mortem experiences – Spyder Syn (Jason Wilson) in Hell, and Diabolicus in Heaven, where he did a j with The J. (“Don’t tell my Dad,” He says.) In the meantime, Nancy Bangz (Jen Tonon) bangs the drums and yells obscenities (it’s why we become actors, boys and girls) and Glitter (Josh Speerstra) tries to figure out what sex he is.
So what can ignite these disparate elements of romance, psychology and theology into a rocking story? You’ve probably guessed it already – the arrival of a gun-toting Governor Barracuda (Jen Speerstra), a thinly – hell, micronically — disguised version of the soon-to-be former Governor of Alaska, and her sidekick Carrie Prejean (Gillian Shelly, who also plays a newscaster). And when Death comes to claim his part of the bargain, well, you can just imagine what happens next.
Or maybe not. I suppose that at this point I should tell you that the story is a little juvenile (you kids get off my lawn!) or offensive to religion (I’ll wear my pants up here if I want to!) or unfair to Republicans (You know what we used to call guys like you in my day? Wisenheimers, that’s what!). It’s a little of all that, but so what? I had a great time anyway, and I bet you will too. The songs are superb, and superbly executed. Swanigan in particular has a great voice. The music is beautiful and the lyrics are witty. The last song paraphrased Mark Twain’s observation that he would prefer to go to Heaven for the climate but Hell for the company. I bet he’s right, too.
Note: During the show I attended, Governor Barracuda, wearing an absolutely outstanding Captain America bikini, sat on my lap and rubbed my big bald head. This did not affect the objectivity of my review.
Diamond Dead (Continued…)
Music by Richard Hartley; lyrics by Brian Cooper; book by Andrew Baughman; based on ‘The Diamond Dead’ by Brian Cooper
Directed by Melissa Baughman
Produced by Landless Theatre Company
Reviewed by Tim Treanor