Landless Theatre is at it again. Yes, the company that brings you inane post-modern theatre, has hit another one: Devil Boys from Beyond, premiering this February, and though it’s a triple to the right field wall rather than a grand slam, it’s still worthy of a trip to Adams-Morgan.
This new production has a feel reminiscent of the company’s Mashup Festival which ended last month. To a base made of ‘50’s B-movies, add a bit of Suddenly Last Summer, a sprinkling of your favorite Erskine Caldwell novel, and a dash of a typical “Adult Swim” cartoon, then fold in a heaping portion of “His Girl Friday,” stir gently, but keep it lumpy. Your end product will resemble Devil Boys. Or not.
To paraphrase the 1999 movie “Still Crazy:” men are from Mars, women are from Venus, all the rest are from Pluto. This is a play about the trouble all the rest can cause us innocent Martians and Venutians. In the sleepy southern town of Lizard Lick—surely in the sister cities program with Tobacco Road and Peyton Place—a mysterious duo of “Plutopians” arrive with plans of breeding a new colony on Earth. Hearing of strange occurances down south, Mattie Van Buren (Patrick M. Doneghy) and Gregory Graham (Stephen Hock), a divorced pair of journalist/ photographers for the New York Bugle arrive to investigate. But Mattie’s bitter rival Lucinda Marsh (Lucrezia Blozia) has beaten them into town, and has gotten hold of a jar containing a mysterious alien being that is likely the key to discovering the key to this extraterrestrial threat.
As far as it goes, it’s an okay story, but playwrights Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott are more interested in quoting and referencing 20th century culture than building a comedy that could potentially stick like cosmic ooze. With some undeniably funny lines (“I’ll fill you’re a** with so much lead you’ll [email protected] pencils”) the dialogue is entertaining, but as I write this the following morning, the whole thing surprisingly vanishes like a flying saucer in the night.
The actors, for their part, chew the scenery like a month-old pork rind, and that’s what they are supposed to do. “Ersatz” is a word we critics use when we want to impress you with our erudite command of grammar. So, I avoided it. In this case, however, I cannot think of a more fitting term. What else would you call it when you have a nearly all-male cast playing a preponderance of female roles? Or when they stagger around on stage, appearing ripe with alien child? Or when they deliver some of the snarkiest lines of dialogue you will hear on stage, complete with many well-placed F-words? Charles Boyington and Steve Kirkpatrick are especially off-the-wall as Dottie Primrose and Florence Wexler, respectively: two of the town’s many, many resident kooks. As Dottie says early on: if something usual is going on in this town, it’s unusual.
As with most Landless productions, the scenery is spare and evolving. Surprises in both visual effects and plot abound. But know this – like many of the B-movies it lampoons, this is a diversion, meant to be tossed aside after use.
Devil Boys from Beyond
By Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott
Directed by Heather Bagnall Scheeler
Produced by Landless Theatre
Reviewed by Steve Hallex
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission