The Rocky Horror Show, Book, Music and Lyrics by Richard O'Brien. Directed by Matthew T. Teichner. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"I can't work like this, Morty."
Kevin Miner as Rocky, Megan Morse as Janet; photo: Anna Guntner
In the first forty minutes of the Town Players of Pittsfield's production of the camp musical The Rocky Horror Show I was rained on by audience members wielding water pistols, showered with toilet paper, and later was covered with glitter confetti and paper. I sat and listened to audience participants, some real audience and some planted cast members I am certain, heckle, criticize, malign and discredit the talented performers on stage. I know I am supposed to enjoy this give and take. I remember an experience with this show on Broadway years and years ago when I think I did do exactly that. I didn't so much this time as the heckling, in particular, got very very personal and resulted, it seemed to me, in some pretty down-and-dirty improvised responses from members of the cast. I could be wrong. I should watch the movie again and see how much of this is scripted and how much isn't, but I just can't bring myself to do it.
The show became a cult experience back in the 1970s. Lasting only 49 performances in 1975, even with Tim Curry, Bonni Enten, Jamie Donnelly and MeatLoaf, the show committed to film became a Friday-night-at-Midnight special and people came dressed as the characters, brought their own bags of props to throw and squirt and pop. The Broadway revival in 2000 with Lea DeLaria, Dick Cavett, Tom Hewitt, Alice Ripley and Jarrod Emick did much better surviving for over two years.
The story of a sweet young couple caught in the web of the dynamic, over-sexed transvestite Dr. Frank 'N' Furter takes its characters, and by association its audience, through a complex web of initimidation, seduction, nudity, sexual satisfaction and liberation, classic horror film and science fiction, rock music, visual splendor and, the afore-mentioned, audience abuse of the company in two hours and twenty minutes.
Stranded in a strange place Brad Majors (Brendan Brierley) and Janet Weiss (Megan Morse) seek help from a peculiar house where there is no telephone. Once inside they are not allowed to leave before help finally arrives in the person of Dr. Scott (Brian Litscher) who is confined to a wheelchair. During their time in the lair of Dr. Frank 'N' Furter (Alexander Benson) they are forced to watch the birth of his creation, the monster named Rocky (Kevin Miner), the death and beheading of rocker Eddie (Joey Rainone), the tortures by Riff Raff (Brian McBride Land) and his lunatic sister Magenta (Isabel Costa) and their friend Columbia (Isabelle Caffero).
All of this takes place on a remarkably usable set of platforms designed by director Matthew T. Teichner who also designed the most effective stage lighting. Sean Baldwin's perfect S&M costumes along with the hair, wig and make-up designs created by the cast bring O'Brien's remarkable characters to vivid life. Teichner's work is exemplary and the show profits from his vision and unique undertanding the symbolism of this very odd play.
As the narrator Jackie DeGiorgis gives the toughest and most offended performance, suffering the slings and arrows (no actual arrows but those slings are meant to hurt and offend) with remarkable patience. She plays the role with assurance and style, continuing when others might call their agents and complain (see the title above) and then just walk out on the show. Helping in her own odd way is Usherette Trixie, played here by Tara Hostash who sings the opening and closing song with charm.
In fact the entire company sing, act and dance with incredible power and charm. In particular, the audience participation quasi-hit number "The Time Warp" sent the audience into paroxysms of joy.
Megan Moore, Brenadan Brierley; photo: Anna Guntner
Alexander Benson as Frank 'N' Furter; photo: Anna Guntner
When Alexander Benson as the evil scientist sings the first act finale "I Can Make You a Man" he reveals the enormity of his talent as a musical performer. While addressed to his creation, Rocky, the song actually reaches out far beyond to the company, to the audience, to the parking lot attendant if there was one at BCC where there actually isn't one. The effect is large and Benson works it beautifully. As Rocky, Miner stands out in a role which is almost naked and certainly erotic. The opening of Act Two continues the eroticism of the play and makes it certain that this is not a show for the whole family, not unless the adults are ready to "explain" a great many things including oral sex, homosexuality, professional virginity and . . . well pick something and its there.
Applause for the entire production, even though it is a show I just didn't care for, and that due more to the audience experience than to the play itself. The show is a parody of those 1940s and 1950s B-films that filled the movie palaces of my childhood. It is a decently written parody extending far beyond the simplicity of mockery into its own bizarre genre. At least in the vastness of the Robert Boland Theatre at Berkshire Community College there is room to enjoy comparative safety where a smaller, more confined space might have given the show a darker, sharper edge with its implied sense of threat.
I won't say you must see this, but if you enjoy being a part of the process then there is no better theatrical experience to be had. Just buy your prop bag for $3 at the box office and get into it, and please get it all out of your system here before you see another show where such behavior is truly out of place.
The Rocky Horror Show plays at BCC's Robert Boland Theatre, 1350 West Street, Pittsfield through October 29. For information and tickets go to www.townplayers.org or call 413-443-9279.