By Pat Launer
October is prime time for a wacky homegrown scare-fest, where “The Bad Seed” meets cheesy ‘50s B-horror flicks. Oh, and don’t forget the drag.
If this sounds like your cup of theatrical insanity, head over to Diversionary Theatre for its leaner, meaner reprise of “She-Rantulas From Outer Space — In 3D!” Well, of course it’s 3-D; it’s live theater! And they’re humans — well most of them, anyway. There are alien tarantulas in human form, growing hairy arachnoid appendages and gobbling up human-types, while liquefying and slurping up their brains (cue the straw-sucking sounds).
Something is seriously amiss in suburban Tarrytown. They men are all going missing. Turns out they’re being abducted, sex-changed and then impregnated, and sent back to re-populate the good ole 1950s, with its pink flamingos and crinoline-flouncy dresses (don’t forget the pearls).
If all this sounds a bit too silly for you (as it is for me), just concentrate on the performances (superb) and costumes (hilarious).
At the center of the wild and increasingly deadly action, Phil Johnson is the cool-as-a-cuke Donna Reed-type homemaker of your dreams (or worst nightmares!): mincing, fluttering and increasingly hysterical as she starts to realize that her daughter, 8 year-old Suzie (bloodcurdling Tony Houck), cute as a button with her blonde pigtails and obsequious manners, also has evil eyes and extra appendages. Soon, all hell breaks loose; the body count and alien count mount.
Andy Collins is equally convincing — and appealing — in both gender roles. Fred Harlow plays a disgruntled husband in a spidery Shriner hat — until he comes back as an amusingly be-turbaned matron. (The outrageous costumes are by Jennifer Brawn-Gittings, with period-perfect wigs by Peter Herman). And then there’s Melinda Gilb (the only cast-member who doesn’t cross-dress), masterfully inhabiting a bevy of familiar females, from the landlady to the Avon Lady to the Church Lady, to the weepy, abandoned Other Woman, to the Latina maid.
Ruff Yeager, who co-wrote the piece with Phil Johnson, directs with a campy flair. Every actor is 100% committed to his/her roles, which tamps down the ever-encroaching, man-eating over-the-top factor.
Trimmed down to 90 minutes (plus an unnecessary 15-minute intermission), the production is being readied for the Fringe circuit: New York, San Francisco and beyond. The show may make you feel like your brain’s been sucked out through a straw…but it might just hit your funny-bone on the way to Outer Space.
- “She-Rantulas From Outer Space — In 3D!” runs through Nov. 2, at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. in University Heights
- Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
- Tickets ($32-$36) are available at 619-220-0097 or online at www.diversionary.org
Pat Launer is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at www.patteproductions.com.
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