KPBS AIRDATE: September 15, 2006
Comedy comes in many colors, from the bright, treacly hues of “Leading Ladies” to the dark, snarky tones of “Urinetown.”
Yes, it’s potty humor, with a capital Pee. The Tony Award-winning “Urinetown” is outlandish, outrageous and hilarious. And buried in the latrine of its satirical mind is a message about corporate greed, popular revolt and environmental conservation. The musical never takes itself seriously, joking about its unlikely, off-putting title and theme. And, like many shows before it, such as the perennial “Forbidden Broadway,” still sporting its funny, self-referential theater spoofs at the Theatre in Old Town, “Urinetown” parodies a host of other musicals, from “A Chorus Line” to “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Les Miz” to “Threepenny Opera.” Some of the jokes may be in the toilet, but they’ll plunge you into hysteria.
Here’s the premise. A 20-year drought has required extreme measures. Private porcelain facilities are outlawed, and the malevolent mega-corporation, “Urine Good Company,” has exclusive rights to manage the public bathrooms, for which it charges exorbitant fees; in other words, only the flush can afford to flush. The people rebel and the bad boss is ousted. There is a love story, too. However, as we’re warned from the outset, this isn’t one of those happy musicals. But if you have the stomach for it, you’ll head for this show, a knockout regional theatre premiere, which ends Starlight Theatre’s 60th season on a roll, you might say. Under the direction of Brian Wells and David Brannen, the cast is superb, gifted comics, singers and dancers. The costumes and lighting are excellent. It’s all awash in sarcasm. By the end, you may be saturated by the low, loo humor, but your laughter won’t run dry.
The chuckles flow a little less freely in “Leading Ladies” at North Coast Repertory Theatre, which kicks off the 25th anniversary season. It’s the West coast premiere of this farce by Ken Ludwig, another hommage to theater, like his “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” But the play hardly feels new, treading oft-trod turf about broke, gold-digging actors who go underground in drag – but they still get the girl. It’s highly reminiscent of “Some Like It Hot,” so if that’s the way you like it, you’re gonna eat this up. Some of San Diego’s finest comic talents are hamming it up like pigs at a trough, pushing it in the first act, but side-splitting in the second. At some point, you can’t help but be swept up in the insanity.
With all that’s going on around us, this is a perfect time for a bellyful of comedy, any way you like it – with body-fluids or cross-dressers. Choose your comfort station.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.