Night of the Living Golden Girls and TarXXXanadu
This Saturday, I attended DCTS’ annual party at a lovely Thai restaurant near DuPont Circle. I must say that every moment was enjoyable, but the party really started with Tim Treanor’s toast, followed by the obligatory game of Who Said That. As we sipped our non-adult adult beverages, slips of paper were passed around with a quote from a reviewer’s work this past year. After (usually correctly) guessing the reviewer who penned it, we voted on our favorite.
The hands-down winner was a passage from Richards Seff’s pan of Bonnie and Clyde. “When will musical theatre writers stop taking stories and characters who’ve been immortalized in other media, and reducing them to by the numbers cyphers in theatre pieces meant to exploit their recognizable images?” Seff wrote “If this one is a hit, I’m sure we can expect [playwright Frank] Wildhorn to attack the likes of ‘King Kong,’ ‘The Three Musketeers,’ and ‘The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari’ to join Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities among other overblown blimps on the currently beleaguered musical stage.”
His complaint has often been mine as well, but amazingly I would find something of an answer to his rhetorical question a few hours later at Landless Theatre’s Mashup Festival. The answer is this: sorry, but it’s here to stay, and it isn’t all bad, either.
Not when you take our familiar story, throw it in a psychedelic Cuisinart, run it on the highest setting, add pieces of other fictions until out comes a multi-colored mush of inviting themes best washed down with a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20, unfortunately unavailable in the DC Arts Center’s lobby.
After considering such titles as The Rocky Horror Picture Showgirls and Josie and the Pussycats Kill Kill Kill, Landless instead presented two appealing plays in the late session of their 2nd annual Mashup Festival: Night of the Living Golden Girls, and I’m guessing what is a revised encore of last year’s crowd favorite— TarXXXanadu.
The doors to this show open at 10pm, and the material, especially in the case of TarXXXanadu is strictly late-night. The opener—Night of the Living Golden Girls—can be interpreted as a violent, and slightly disturbing farce. But actually, it is simply a parody stretched to absurdity. Its cast members—Patty O’Furnatura, Patrick M. Doneghy, Sherry Berg, Ian Hoch, Dave Weiner, and Carey Rauch—avoid taking it too seriously and play their warmed over characters with no unnecessary nuance.
Any child of the ‘80’s will guffaw the moment O’Furnatura faces the audience as Rose, the amiable airhead from St. Olaf made famous by Betty White in what else—“The Golden Girls.” Dorothy, Sophia, and Blanche have all passed on, leaving Rose with only her threadbare teddy bear as a companion. Played far too matronly to truly pass as the flippant Rose, O’Furnatura nevertheless captures the most buoyant characteristics of the iconic sitcom character. Oblivious to the fact that her neighbors—including Dr. Harry Weston of “Empty Nest”—have turned into zombies, Rose is making hot chocolate for her and her companion when a mysterious man with a double-barreled shotgun barges in. Turns out he is Anthony (Doneghy) from “Designing Women,” and he’s been on the run from the zombie migration that took over the Sugarbaker Estate some time ago. Trapped together in Rose’s home, the two make a hopeless stand. Soon enough, Anthony wonders if he’s better off outside against the zombies in the face of Rose’s inanity and tiresome stories about her childhood in St. Olaf.
Before we’re through with these characters, they will both confront people from their past. I will not say this comedy has a happy ending, but it will be a satisfying one.
After intermission, we move on to TarXXXanadu. I wish I could tell you more than I will, but I have no clue what diseased recesses of writer/ director Chris Griffin’s mind this comes from. Set in a soon-to-be demolished Hollywood film lot where a shady production company shoots quickie gay porno films, this play is really an excuse to stage some truly off the wall song and dance numbers. With a sizeable cast and elaborate footwork, at times this play has feel of a Broadway revue, provided the production company had fallen on truly hard times.
Here Tarzan (Will Hayes) is the illegitimate son of a booze-addled singer, who has the same name of a real-life singer. I won’t name names, you’ll just have to come on over to find out. Anyways, after giving birth, a dingo swoops the baby away, and Tarzan grows up on an abandoned Hollywood lot where he is discovered by a crew shooting a homoerotic film. Seeing his …um, physical prowess, the producers recruit him as their new porn star—Lord Gaystroke. Be warned, there are numerous scenes of simulated gay sex. This is not a complete synopsis: the remaining absurdity should be experienced first hand.
There are no standout performances from the cast, but they are uniformly enjoyable. Despite the difficulty of staging such a play in a rather small space, I rarely see a cast making so much fun out of such hard work.
So, if you want to see some skillful folks really warp some familiar stuff almost beyond recognition, you might like this show. Below, you will note that I recommend this play, but also mind the warnings above.
The Landless Mashup Festival continues thru Jan 28, 2012 at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th Street NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Landless Theatre Mashup Festival
Produced by Landless Theatre Company
“Night of the Living Golden Girls
Written and directed by Melissa Baughman
Written and directed by Chris Griffin
Total runtime: one and a half hours with one intermission