Running With Scissors' latest offering is sort of a cruise to nowhere but in the best sense of the experience. It's easy fun best accompanied by a silly tropical drink and the hedonistic spirit of being miles offshore or maybe just drunk in Tijuana.
The Titanic Adventures of the Love Boat Poseidon is a three-in-one summer rerun with all the levity that none of the originals possessed. It's also a bit more raunchy than any TV censors or ratings boards could stomach, but that's welcome relief.
Love Boat features some of the regular Scissors crew -- Brian Peterson, Brad Caldwell, Dorian Rush, Donald Lewis -- boarding their own Pacific Princess in a spoof of the Aaron Spelling-launched comedy romance series that lasted for a decade on network television (1977-1986). But this cruise is blown up to the epic proportions of The Poseidon Adventure and the James Cameron version of Titanic. Scissors fans will get all the saucy innuendo, camp, cross-dressing and film/theater insider jokes that they have come to expect and appreciate. Others might be forewarned that the action could make some sailors blush.
The play opens as the ship is boarding for yet another episode of love and intrigue. Captain Stubing (Bob Edes) greets all the passengers as Julie (Lisa Picone), your ditzy cruise director with a coke problem, tells viewers, or rather Stubing, who they are. Isaac (Donald Lewis) is there to provide all of the necessary asides. Boarding is recurring Scissors' persona, "The Unsinkable" Molly Brownstein (Brian Peterson). She's with her life partner Mandy (Brad Caldwell). Also boarding is the cruise line owner Calvin Love (Jack Long) and his starlet wife Rose (Dorian Rush). And Some Guy Named Jack is the Leo DiCaprio character from Titanic. Bob Edes also pulls double duty admirably in the, uhhh, leggy and propeller shaft-obsessed role of the Producer's Neice, aka Vicki Stubing.
The first half of the voyage is all about the free-love boat. Crew and guests don't care which waters they dip their oars in as long as the motion of the ocean is soothing. The overlapping subplots feature Captain Stubing's attempts to entertain all of his passengers. The Brownsteins are looking for a little rest and relaxation and Calvin Love tries to keep an eye on Rose while Jack pursues her below deck. In the midst of all these good times, what would one expect of The Love Boat? Celebrity musical numbers. As New Year's Eve approaches, we get a lovely duet from Charo (Brian Peterson) and Ethel Merman (Dorian Rush).
The natural world then unleashes its rage on the unnatural proceedings. The vessel is hit by an iceberg and a tsunami (which is what capsized the Poseidon and inverted it in the 1972 blockbuster). From there on, it's an action story as the handful of survivors try to escape the submerged, upside-down hull of the ship. The play is most entertaining here as the crew focuses less on the logistics of a sunken cruise boat and more on the storytelling devices that advance a blockbuster film plot. Clearly, it's a much surer bet in trying to survive a Hollywood disaster. Follow the romantic lead; he must know what he's doing. The running commentary on contrivances of the genre and melodramatic detours is witty and compelling.
More imposing than rogue icebergs and tidal waves is Brian Peterson's Molly Brownstein. He's honed the larger-than-life, Barbara Streisand loving, thick accented, Jewish New Yorker schtick into an artform. She's funny throughout, but is irrepressible in her heroic efforts to lead the survivors to safety, which is partially staged as a musical number; part water ballet and part dance, it's an inspired part of the show.
Who knew that The Love Boat recast Shakespeare's wise fools as Isaac the Bartender, the low-rung employee who's there to entertain but will offer wisdom, ground the play with some dose of reality and occasionally tell the audience what's going on. Lewis is very entertaining and he pushes the action along as easily as he totes big trays of stacked drinks. The reward for all of this savvy is that he gets to survive the script, a novelty for a black character in Hollywood disaster films of the '70s, but he is, of course, abandoned by the plot and left to his own devices to do it.
Running With Scissors has done some memorable reworking of film classics and cult favorites. The humor here isn't as wickedly sharp as in Grenadine McGunkle's Double-Wide Christmas or L'imitation of Life, but it's definitely seaworthy. Some video montages from the parodied films and other '70s kitsch almost make the originals seem funny, but this production pirates the best material in the fleet for an enjoyable pleasure cruise.
- Captain Stubing (Bob Edes) doesn't want to go down with the ship.