Monday, September 14, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Drop Dead Perfect at the Theatre At St. Clement's by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of “Drop Dead Perfect" at the Theatre At St. Clement's was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Drop Dead Perfect
Directed by Joe Brancato
Scenic Design by James J. Fenton
Costume Design by Charlotte Palmer-Lane
Lighting Design by Ed McCarthy
Sound Design by William Neal 
Choreography by Lorna Ventura
Theatre At St. Clement's
423 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 9/10/15 

Drop Dead Perfect incubated and had its world premiere at the Penguin Rep Theatre in Stony Point, located in Rockland County, New York. Penguin's production was subsequently presented by The Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theatre At St. Clement's in Manhattan, where it now returns for an eight-week run with Everett Quinton in the lead role as Idris Seabright. We have no idea who wrote this play (Erasmus Fenn is a pen name), but Joe Brancato, the director, says this madcap melodrama set in a cottage in the Florida Keys in 1952 fits squarely in the art and tradition of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, headed by the late Charles Ludlam, who was Everett Quinton's partner in work and life. Their outrageous productions, similar to this one, tended to feature men in female roles, deliberate overacting, a campy queer sensibility, hilarious double entendres, and witty cultural references.   

Everett Quinton is brilliant in the lead role as Idris Seabright, a jealous, possessive, wealthy spinster who enjoys sketching and craves stillness and perfection (with the possible exception of watching the "Monster" move and swing in its full glory). We learn that Idris took "bubble baths" with her father (who died when his ship The Dancing Queen sunk) and has no problem sleeping with her nephew Ricardo, killing her dog, freezing her goldfish, poisoning her enemies and stealing her sister Lucy's second child (who she named Vivien). She told this child she was an orphan and a cripple. Idris has many of the best lines in the play such as when she laments the recent storm has "wreaked havoc on my African hibisus - and my poor bougainvillea." Being overweight and in her late 50s, it is also very funny when she admits, "I am not the featherweight I used to be" and "I know my looks are fading. I'm just about to turn 35." When Vivien threatens to leave to apply for a scholarship to study sculpture in New York City, Idris threatens to cut her out of her will. When Vivien, most impressively portrayed by Jason Edward Cook, learns she is not a cripple and can dance, she does a split and all Idris can say is, "Get up Vivien. You'll stain the carpet!" which, in my opinion, is the funniest line in the play. Vivien, who is also in love with Ricardo (who turns out to be her brother), is an aspiring ingenue with a phallic fixation. Her first sculpture (which Idris destroys with an axe) is of three erect penises of different sizes, which she calls "Life In Hard Times." Her second sculpture, which looks like a menorah but has miniature penises in place of the candles, is entitled "Man Aura."

The highly sexual Ricardo, played by Jason Cruz, dominates the stage with his charisma. He has escaped Cuba after being falsely charged with murder and has come to visit his aunt, who was in love with his father. We learn that Ricardo's father and mother, Ricky and Lucy, were not killed but instead escaped to Hollywood (he, a bongo player, and she, as aspiring actress) leaving poor Little Ricky behind. Ricardo has been nicknamed "Monster" ever since he was young due to the enormous size of his cock, which causes men and women alike to swoon and be seduced merely by being in its presence (the dominant Alpha Male gets to sleep with whoever he wants). As Ricardo often says, "A man's got to do what a man has to do, to do what has to be done." As a result, he seduces Idris, causes Vivien to fall in love with him, and even gets Phineas Fenn, Idris's pill-pushing lawyer (convincingly portrayed by Timothy C. Goodwin), to warm up to him in more than one way. Idris tries to lose weight by lifting cans of vegetables in each hand chanting, "One, Two, Three, Four, Make Me Young Just Like Before" and Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Give Ten Pounds To The Girl I Hate." But when things get out of hand and out of her control, she seeks increased stillness and perfection. She dips her fruit in wax so it stays perfect. She freezes her goldfish so they won't move. She kills and stuffs her dog so she can better sketch it. Where will this madness stop? Who will live? Who will die? For that exciting ending, you will need to see the show. All I will say is that it involves poison, gunshots, pills and a blazing fire. You would expect nothing less!

If you are looking for a cock-in-the-tail or just a fun evening of theater, I highly recommend you catch Drop Dead Perfect while you have a chance. It contains elements of pulp novels, 1940s and 1950s Hollywood melodramas, 1950s television, and cultural references that will keep you on the toes. The play both skewers and honors those genres to provide a hilarious, over-the-top evening of entertainment you will not soon forget. Tickets (Regular Price - $69.00; Premium Price - $99.00) can be purchased by visiting 

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