KPBS AIRDATE: AUGUST 4, 1999
MUSIC: “TIME WARP”
All right, are you ready? Let’s do the Time Warp…. It’s just a step to the left…. sure, it’s a time-warp. The crazy, cult movie came out in 1975, but “Rocky Horror” lives on…. Now, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Gay Pride and the midnight cult classic, Diversionary Theatre is mounting a hilarious stage production of that incomparable science fiction double-feature, “The Rocky Horror Show.”
Director Tim Irving was very clear about not wanting to simply recreate onstage the deathless drama of Dr. Frank N. Furter and his meeting with the hapless Brad and Janet (dammit, Janet!), as they stumble into the decadent earth-landing site of the ‘sweet transvestite’ and his coterie from Transexual, Transylvania: the deep-voiced, tough-girl Magenta (here played by a funny-butch Katie Harper); hopped-up redhead Columbia (the nimble, physically and vocally adorable Yvonne L.E. Fisher); and the stooped and droolly, Igor-like hunchback Riff Raff (Derek Travis Collard, very, very funny – if he’d only lose the lisp). But despite a very well-directed, variably talented but generally quite capable cast, it’s Tim Irving who steals the show.
His numerous additions to the script are as outrageous, satirical and off-the-wall as the originals of conceiver/creator/composer/lyricist Richard O’Brien. Wherever O’Brien is, he should race over to this country to connect and collaborate with Tim Irving. They have the same brand of raucous, rambunctious, totally warped humor. And O’Brien’s spoofs and filmic allusions were getting a bit frayed around the edges anyway… those old sci-fi movies he referred to are realllly old. So, Irving’s updates are definitely welcome… and as hell-raising as the material demands.
Nothing is sacred here (it never was). Not only does Irving make gleeful, rowdy reference to “Mommie Dearest,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Gypsy,” “The Sound of Mucous” and the “X Files,” he riffs on Shakespeare, and takes well-aimed potshots (palpable hits!) at Star Trek and the new and old Star Wars. Funnier still, he goes for the local jugular, too, taking on “Forever Plaid,” “Triple Espresso” and The Starlight Lady.
His writing and inventive direction meld perfectly with Leigh Scarritt’s quirky choreography, which sits well in Linda Gilbreth’s uber-Goth set. The opening sequence, with geeks and gays sitting in a movie theater, watching “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” sets the wholly irreverent tone, poking fun at — and putting an end to –the groupies with their cards, rice, waterguns and predictable Peanut Gallery remarks. The language is rough, the sex is simulated but stimulating, and the entire assemblage seems to be having one helluva time.
David McBean is a hoot as the oversexed doctor who creates the monster-hunk, though his costume should be much sexier. Looks like he could handle it. He does fine with the high heels, fishnets, nail polish and ambi-sexuality. His luscious baritone is the strongest voice in the cast, along with Melissa Supera, outstanding as Janet, and the aforementioned Yvonne Fisher. The rest are better in groups; most are inadequately miked. The singing and the sluggish, overly loud musical accompaniment lack the rockin’ edge of the original, but the energy and parody are so high, and the comedy so low, that you can forgive any little missteps and just have a fantastic time. And remember, buried beneath all the boas and bustiers is a genuine message – one that helped to attract, and bring back, hordes of gay and straight, male and female hangers-on… It still applies today, babies – whatever (whoever?) you desire: Don’t dream it; be it.
MUSIC OUT: “Don’t Dream It”
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1999 Patté Productions Inc.