Ah, normalcy! Maybe you're old enough to remember it. I mean we all know normalcy is as dead as the dinosaurs. But it used to be everywhere. Why, just take a gander at the cover of an old Saturday Evening Post magazine. There's normalcy for you! Or check out a rerun of a classic TV show from the 1950s, like Ozzie and Harriet, for instance. Boy, I hope the folks at Running With Scissors never lay their filthy hands on the normalissimus Nelson family.
For now, the Scissors are cutting up at the expense of some other time-honored American icons. Their latest show, Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys in the Wax Museum Mystery, is currently driving normal people to drink at One Eyed Jacks. The rest of us are in stitches.
Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys was written by Richard Read and Flynn De Marco. They have concocted a rip-roaring tale that is told in 12 chapters (introduced by Dane Rhodes' voice-over) with alliterative titles like "The Prissy Professor," "The Weird Waxworks" and "The Sinister Souk."
In a clever bit of staging, we get to meet all the teenage dicks (pardon!) at the same table -- although either end of the table represents a different location. Joe Hardy (Flynn De Marco) seems to have a bit of a thing for brother Frank (Rod Lemaire). In any case, he's extremely touchy about any romantic buzz between Frank and Nancy Drew (Elizabeth Pearce). Though, if truth be told, Nancy spends most of her time and shares who knows how much of her intimacy with her trusty sidekick Bess Armstrong (Brian Peterson). "Armstrong," eh? Well, never mind, let that pass.
Anyway, Nancy certainly deserves some affectionate support, because the burden of her gift for ratiocination drives her to despair. "Sometimes, I wish God had blessed somebody else with my crime-solving skills," she laments -- cleverly seeking pity and broadcasting her talent in the very same breath. The intrepid teen travels with hand-crafted Italian luggage, don'cha know. Unlike those Hardy yokels, Nancy is a class act.
Well, as you might suspect, a mystery is soon brewing. A lady swathed in dark veils seems obsessively determined to buy a strange old locked trunk at an auction. This exotic huggery-muggery leads our young sleuths on a merry chase to Morocco, via London. Detailing the twists of the plot would fill a hefty volume and be about as compelling to read as instructions for tying of a double-overhand-hitch knot. However, watching the plot unroll is a joy. And, most import, surprise is part of the fun.
I recently read that the Prophet Mohammed (whom one does not normally think of in connection with humor) once said that a man who makes his companions laugh has earned his way to Paradise. By that definition, the Scissors gang can confidently rely on a cushy hereafter.
As usual, with the Scissors, there is plenty of hilarious camping and a dollop or two of delicious innuendo. When the Professor (Jim Jeske), who is confined to a wheelchair, moans that he will have to find a new pusher, we laugh at the deliberate ambiguity of that evocative job description. As usual, there are also moments of pure, immaculate nonsense. For instance, at one point, the entire rush toward a solution grinds to a halt while the fearless foursome struggles hopelessly to coordinate their schedules.
No turbaned mameluke attempts to decapitate the sleuths with his scimitar, as one might have expected in the casbahs of North Africa. But we do get a seance. And as for special effects, what about that mirror coming to life and speaking her dire words as a sort of Sybil made of glass?
In Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys, the cast -- almost all of whom, minus the excellent newcomer Rod Lemaire, are seasoned veterans with the company -- works its special brand of magic. Is the humor broad? Is the humor subtle? It's hard to say. I guess it's both. But the actors are all comfortable with a style that is somehow extremely forgiving. They create an easy, confident mood. And there is something tonic in their nuttiness. Maybe, that's the only another way of saying that there's something restrictive and oppressive in normalcy. And not just for those of us who have the hardest time disguising our true, anarchic, "abnormal" selves.
Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys (and, in fact, the whole ongoing Running With Scissors oeuvre) is delightfully liberating. I can't think of a more fun way to spend one of these sweltering summer nights.
- Joe Hardy (Flynn De Marco), Frank Hardy (Rod Lemaire), Bess (Brian Peterson) and Nancy Drew (Elizabeth Pearce) sleuth their way through Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys in the Wax Museum Mystery.