Friday, August 10, 2012

Double Play By Beverly Creasey

If you’re a fan of the Olympics, you’re probably obsessed with Usain Bolt of Jamaica after his triumphant double double, cinched yesterday and all over the news today. But another double double happened in Watertown last evening.

The Titanic Theatre Company debuted with Charles Busch’s THE THIRD STORY, a raucous romp brimming with double entendre, double agents and body doubles, not to mention double dealing and double talk. Would you expect anything else from a Charles Busch show?

THE THIRD STORY (at Arsenal Arts Center until August 18th) sprints through the outrageous stereotypes found in gangster movies and melds them to the mad scientist genre. Of course it does. The wacky back story has a mother and son screenwriter team trying to put together a boffo script. The writing plot serves as an excuse for a larger than life mother-in-drag who’s not so keen on her daughter-in-law and a smoldering scientist who has created the most adorable monster since Peter Boyle. Then there’s the fairy tale.

Director Adam Zahler teases out every bit of comedy there is in Busch’s hilariously lame script. It’s not easy to write over-the-top dialogue which floats from laugh to laugh (and never lands with a thud). What a cast Zahler has to make merry with! Dying is easy, as the old saw goes. Comedy is hard. There’s not a wink out of place or a sideways glance thrown asunder.

Rick Park (who can play anything: serial killers, sharks, you name it) is on his game with the two Queenie roles (one a ruthless mobster mom and the other a sweet, Rain Man afflicted serial killer) and one scheming, Russian sorceress. Nancy Stevenson dresses him, at one point, in gold lamé and heels and (s)he’s simply irresistible. And can he deliver a putdown!

Jordan Sobel (the bespectacled, milquetoast screenwriter inventing all the twists and turns) doubles as Queenie’s tough as nails gangster son who’s married to Erin Eva Butcher’s sexy moll. Butcher doubles as the peasant girl in love with a prince. Shelly Brown plays Sobel’s overpowering mother and then a German scientist jealous of Alisha Jansky’s accomplishments in the lab.

Jansky is a scream as the up tight, no nonsense scientist who creates life in a petri dish, then lets her hair down in a sultry epiphany courtesy of Sobel’s hunky mobster. Brett Milanowski (as the “botched experiment” in a bad suit) amazes with evolving Darwinian gestures: He’s part frog, almost human, then more human than most.

Michael Ricca (who is an expert on old movies) provides the authentic “movie” soundtrack, which is funny all by itself…and Marc Harpin has fashioned the perfect backdrop for THE THIRD STORY: an empty page for a stage full of shenanigans, with a spotlight (lighting by Christopher Brusberg) on an old fashioned typewriter.