Amateur night at the Cornball Corral
Published July 31, 2005
Center Stage Productions finally collared me to attend their production of "Beads, Bangles and Baggy Pants," mainly because I wanted to get out of Hillcrest on Friday (July 29) to make room for Pride attendees; and second, because I wanted to see if Thomas M. Walker III's new troupe www.centrstageplayers.com is as great as he claims. Walker hopes to establish a professional troupe in our city. Rule No. 1: Do not invite the critics until you are certain you (and they) are ready.
It was indeed a good plan to get out of the maddening throng and have a light supper the appetizer trio at Adams Avenue Grill, one of my fave local restaurants. The quality is excellent and one always receives a warm welcome.
Walker's homegrown musical, with music by Michael Thomas Tower, purports to celebrate the good old days of burlesque. If one enjoys an entire evening devoted to small penises, big boobs and bad jokes about same, this show is the thing. An annoyingly raucous crowd of supporters (no pun intended) gathered to go "Whooee!" and laugh and applaud loudly.
The company encompasses a range of performers, some of whom have rather impressive professional credits. The result is a truly mixed bag, with even the most seasoned among them performing skits in a manner too loud for the confines of Adams Ave. Studio of the Arts. A drum set punctuates every punch line, bump and grind as if patrons are not only deaf but also stupid. This is not the burlesque I remember, and I've been around the block a few times.
The "girls" range from ripe and seasoned to immature and awkward; some fill out their costumes and some do not. Some know what bump and grind is; others haven't a clue. If it is attained this is not a cohesive style cries out for sincerity and an imbued sense of the body in time and space.
The "men" are much the same, with the naïf buffoon types in need of training or at least exposure to clowning and physical comedy and perhaps more observations thereof. Schools/troupes that come to mind immediately are Aquila and Dell'Arte. The prime individual example of excellence is the nation's clown prince, Bill Irwin, who recently received a Tony Award for his sincere, dramatic performance in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe." Jackie Gleason and Art Carney are excellent examples of comic style, and their "Honeymooners" sketches are readily available for purchase and rental.
Entertainment at Center Stage's level of professionalism is in the realm of "What I Did for Love." Far be it from me to single out individuals for praise or scorn. Judging from the attendance on opening night, one might say this troupe and its product has a following as is. If it survives, it can only get better.
In all truth, I slunk off into the night after Act I. Those gamer than I should know that "Beads, Bangles and Baggy Pants" continues through Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Adams Ave. Studio is located at 2804 Adams Ave., San Diego. (619) 462-2131.
The thinking part of my weekend was more rewarding in that it required analysis and processing, a beloved activity. I cannot get Marianne McDonald's lovely "And then he met a woodcutter" (closed July 31) out of my mind. Nick Greene's "Chrysalis: Rapechild," playing through Aug. 14 at Sledgehammer Theatre, 1620 6th Ave. (619) 544-1484, www.sledgehammer.org, has similar concerns the bloodlust of war and its effect on society and the individual. Rapechild's final image puppets by Nick Fouch, lighting by Jennifer Setlow caused a spine-tingle stronger than any ever experienced.
McDonald's play is the more pure and ceremonial, and "Crysalis" is filtered through a 21st Century lens, infused with multimedia, popular images. Both are thought-provoking. Each in its own way is lovely. Each had further resonance in the La Jolla Playhouse's just-ended, brief Page to Stage workshop of Melissa James Gilbert's "Current Nobody," a cross-gender, word-loving examination of Homer's "The Odyssey" with several fascinating psychological twists. It is a cautionary tale about absence, in this case the mother's.