In Gone With the Wind, the epic historical romance set during the Civil War, Margaret Mitchell glorified the grandeur of plantation society in the South. In the parody Gone With the Breaking Wind, currently running at Mid-City Theatre, Varla Jean Merman, Ricky Graham and company hit the classic 1939 film adaptation (starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh) right in the Southern belles.
As soon as the action begins at Twelve Inch Oaks, it's clear the jokes will come fast and furious, as Harlot O'Hairnet (Merman) attends a barbecue and pines for Ashy Heels (Graham), who — though it's doubtful he enjoys the company of women — is about to marry Mealy Hammertoe (Brooklyn Shaffer). Harlot marries another man instead, but never takes her eye off Ashy, or the dashing and rich Brett Butter (Sean Patterson).
In the freewheeling lampoon of the romantic notion of the genteel South, nothing is off limits, including alcoholism, scatological humor and wistful homages to the comforts of incestuous relationships. When Harlot acquires a mule to pull a wagon back to Tara, there's endless talk of "the ass she got in Atlanta." There are double entendres, innuendos, gleefully obvious gags and asides, and the cast members break character often, without diffusing the plot. Mealy walks onstage in the middle of Act 2, and Shaffer, overplaying Mealy's obliviousness, turns to the audience and says, "Can someone catch me up, I haven't been onstage in a long time."
Anticipated moments are worth it. Patterson is priceless as Big Ma'am, the comedy's version of Scarlett's slave Mammy. Big Ma'am delivers the news of just about every death in the story with a sassy, "She dead, baby."
Late in the story, when Harlot needs to put together a new dress to receive guests at her ruined plantation, she comes up with a fun spin on the movie's recycling moment. Cecile Casey Covert provided the costumes and did a brilliant job outfitting the cast for numerous quick changes, particularly Patterson's doubling as Big Ma'am and Harlot's suitor Brett.
Varla literally towers over the rest of the cast, which works as its own recurring joke. Everyone else plays multiple roles, including Jefferson Turner and Brian Johnston. While the film stretched to nearly four hours, this show is condensed into two, and it moves faster than Sherman's army in laying waste to its targets. It's a hilarious romp, and the South may not rise again after this.