We're used to coming attractions in movies. But rarely do we see them for a stage show. The Gulls is the exception that proves the rule. In the recent DramaRama at the Contemporary Arts Center, Running With Scissors presented a very short and very funny trailer for its camp spoof of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 avian thriller. In The Gulls, as in The Birds, our fine, feathered friends set about to destroy humanity with a mysterious, suicidal insurgency.
The play is being presented at One Eyed Jacks. One Eyed Jacks is, of course, the revamped version of the late Shim Sham Club (which was, in itself, the revamped version of the Toulouse Theater -- where Vernel Bagneris' smash hit One Mo' Time got its start). In other words, the place has been important to the local theater scene for decades. We're pleased to see the tradition continue, albeit under new ownership.
The Running With Scissors troupe features masters of what might be called naive sophistication, or, if you prefer, sophisticated naiveté. Their secret seems to be a combination of unfettered imagination and a low budget. The Gulls is Running With Scissors at its wackiest -- excluding, perhaps, their first venture upon our stage: Texas Chainsaw 90210, where the audience was sprayed with blood.
Like almost everyone on Earth, I saw The Birds when it first came out. I don't remember the film in precise detail, but I have a storehouse in my cranium of certain unforgettable scenes, like the mass attack of birds flying out of a chimney and wreaking havoc in what had been a peaceful living room. Well, those indelible moments are all there in The Gulls. And they're hilarious.
The usual suspects from this riotous repertory company are all there as well. And they're at the top of their form. As Melanie Daniels, Flynn De Marco -- curvaceous and fragile in blond bob and green skirt suit -- struggles unequally against the demonic water fowl. De Marco is aided by a less fragile but more curvaceous Brian Peterson, a Mammy-Yokum-like Jim Jeske and the always zesty Dorian Rush -- all in multiple roles. Pandora Gastelum and Rod Lemaire do a delightful series of dance numbers in gull costumes, while Jack Long, Nathan Martin, June DiMorente and Brad Caldwell ably complete the cast.
Richard Read and De Marco directed this comic treat, and they have regaled us with cabaret theater at its amiable, nutty best. I must add a caveat, however. The next time you take a walk by THE river, you'll get the willies whenever a gull swoops by. Worse still, everyone will think you're crazy, when you break out laughing.
While sea gulls menace the cross-dressing middle class at One Eyed Jacks, a dragon is causing general panic over at Le Petit. Not to worry, however; this dragon is more interested in writing songs than breathing fire. Furthermore, he looks like a cartoon version of Elton John. In fact, he's the loveable villain of a kid's show.
St. George and the Dragon (book and lyrics by Ricky Graham, music by the late Fred Palmisano) takes place in a sleepy medieval village, where nothing ever happens.
The story is told by a precociously poised Garrison Linn, who plays Chris, a boy who loves to read. Chris' papa (Danny Marin) comes home one day in a state of terror. He's seen something terrifying. What it is he doesn't know. But studious young Chris realizes that papa has encountered a dragon. He decides to confront the dragon himself. And, for some unexplained reason, his pusillanimous parents allow him to do so. Luckily, papa's panic -- like the great wave of fear that engulfs the villagers -- is misplaced. Amos the dragon (Sean Patterson) is a nice guy who just wants to play his toy piano.
St. George (Gary Rucker), who is a knight arrant and a renowned dragon slayer, arrives in town to add another notch to his mace. But Chris succeeds in reconciling the two antagonists. A faked fight is staged. And everyone lives happily after -- even the meek mayor (Michael Sullivan) and his harridan of a wife (Jennifer Richardson).
This fanciful entertainment is well staged by Rucker and Patterson. It features eight tuneful tunes, accompanied by Lori Dewitt on the keyboard. St. George and the Dragon does not bear quite as radical a relationship to its mythic sources as The Gulls does to the horror film that inspired it. There is a similarity, though, in the lighthearted approach to dark and violent stories. In a way, St. George and the Dragon is comic cabaret for kids.
- Melanie Daniels (Flynn De Marco) and Mitch Brenner (Nathan Martin) find that love is for the birds -- or, rather, The Gulls, in Running With Scissors' latest camping trip.