Meet the Blands" is the first song of Eating Raoul, The Musical, now on the boards at True Brew Theater. A chorus of 10 serenades us about this pair of hopeless stick-in-the-muds who live in a standard second-rate tacky apartment in the Lala Land of L.A. Actually, Mary and Paul Bland are a hardworking couple, nurturing their own version of the impossible dream. They want to buy a building somewhere far, far away, in the country, and open their own restaurant. Well, let the freaks and geeks in Lala Land laugh all they want; we in the audience can't help but root for the Blands -- especially when they are played by such appealing performers as Michael Sullivan and Stacy Taliancich.
Mary, who is "a married nutritionist" in the medical field, hopes to land a loan, but has the devil's own time not landing in bed with doctor/boss or loan officer/hot tub Romeo. Meanwhile, Paul, rather than collecting a promised raised, is summarily fired from his job in a liquor store.
Playwright Paul Bartel takes a jaded view of the Blands, loading on them the sort of corny ballads that are introduced by a saccharine tag line and some glockenspiel arpeggios. But wait! Doktor Freud and his Viennese collaborators long ago warned us that the repressed instincts will have their revenge. In the case of the Blands, the darker, sleazier reaches of the libido come oozing into their lives with a vengeance.
(Brief digression: Once, when I was in California (San Francisco, actually), a pretty though average-seeming lady visited the friend with whom I was staying. In the course of the visit, the lady told me she was a lesbian, raising a child with another woman. She supported this domestic arrangement, she said, by working as a dominatrix. Then she gave me her card, in case I was interested.)
I tell this anecdote, not to cast aspersions on the great state governed by an ex-Mr. Universe, but to show that in California, Eating Raoul may be closer to realism than we in so-called sinful New Orleans are likely to realize.
At any rate, the Blands, desperate for money to fund their dream, stumble into the kinky sex game. With an extra twist or two, however, the most outrageous being a fatal frying pan, wielded by the least likely homicidal maniac of the new Millennium, hubby Paul.
There is no way to adequately summarize the proceedings after the Blands make their appearance on a local broadcast sex show, hosted by -- what else? -- a dominatrix (Konni Albert Sardi). Let it suffice to say that there is a great deal of outrageous fun, much of it caused by Raoul himself -- a super super (intendant) from somewhere south of the border played with a great deal of panache by Nathan Homb. Raoul is a singer who hopes to soon be "bigger than Tito Puente." He's well accompanied by his luscious and shameless Raoulettes (Joy Chun and Ashley Thompson).
Raoul wants in on the Blands' ecstasy death scam --the victims of which include individuals who dress for their night of bliss as a chicken, as Hitler, and as a baby (with diaper and pacifier). They all arrive ready and willing to rock and role-play. Except for the chicken, who was only a delivery boy, but mistakes will happen in even the best-run enterprises.
Director Roland "Butch" Caire has kept the show unslick, in the best sense of the word. Eating Raoul feels like a low-life cabaret piece. For all the lewd nastiness, there is a kind of goodwill in this lackadaisical, though by no means lackluster, nonsense.
But remember, the play is from the land of "fruits and nuts, boobs and butts," to quote one of the songs, where there's lots of "ranting and raving, master and slaving, to quote from another.
You get the picture. Of course, there may be someone out there who will be affronted by a plot in which the protagonists have as their major problem that they keep "getting stuck with middle-income sex fiends" and so can't amass the money they need. But an open-minded CEO will sympathize (especially if he's been indicted by a grand jury). And as for the CEO's wife, she might do well to focus on the theme of true love --true connubial love, no less -- courageously holding its own (almost) in a world of lust and perversion! Fans of lust and perversion -- formerly known as "the silent majority" -- will have no trouble enjoying the show. And so need not be warned in advance.
- Michael Sullivan and Stacy Taliancich are the Blands, who use sex as a weapon in Eating Raoul, The Musical, recently staged at True Brew Theatre.