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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Trog! is a Fun-Filled Romp

Also see Richard's reviews of Salome and Death in Venice

Trog!
Heklina, Matthew Martin and Mike Finn
Joan Crawford, who had a great sense of humor, would be happy to see Matthew Martin once again playing Joan in the campy Trog! at the Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco.  There is no better Joan Crawford than Matthew Martin, who also directed this farce.  Martin does not over-camp the movie diva but plays her with just the right persona.   

Trog! was Joan Crawford's last film and the budget was so tight that the star had to use her own car as a dressing room and supply her own wardrobe, minus the blue lab coat.  She once remarked, "If I weren't a Christian Scientist and I saw Trog! advertised on a marquee across the street, I think I'd contemplate suicide."

According to the Herman Cohen Production company who made the 1970 British film, a trog was a cave-dwelling half-man/half-ape creature.  As the press materials describe, super scientist Dr. Brockton (Matthew Martin as Joan) and a student (Kai Brothers) capture Trog (Mike Finn) and bring him back to the laboratory to study, in hopes that this "missing link" will provide invaluable information on man's evolution.  Dr. Brockton's daughter Ann (Heklina) cares for Trog and bonds with the gentle subject. Brockton's curiosity and scientific interest is not shared by Dr. Murdock (Michael Sousa), the local curmudgeon and anti-intellectual who would rather kill the monster first, then study its hide.

Matthew Martin does justice to Joan and adds funny bits to the character.  He continually calls Ann "Christine" and of course the character Ann played wonderfully by Heklina says "but my name is Ann". In one scene the good doctor throws a wire hanger at her. In another scene while the Crawford character is giving a long dissertation, the spotlight is just to his front.  He has to keep putting his torso into the spot light. This is a very clever mechanism. There are clever scenes when the phone rings and on the line is President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Angelina Jolie.

Matthew Martin does not follow the British movie dialogue but inserts scenes from Joan's movie career. You see and hear dialogue from Baby Jane and a great confrontation scene between Joan and her daughter that is strictly out of Mildred Pierce.  During the short piece, Matthew changes into four "designer" type dresses that only Joan would have worn.  

Mike Finn, who is dressed in a ratty ape suit, has a manic energy about him as he prances about without speaking a word.  There is a great little scene between him and the good doctor that is reminiscent of Bat Boy.  Heklina, dressed in a what looks like a white short flapper outfit that looks straight out of Thoroughly Modern Mille, is very good as a straight "man." She looks a little like a young Sophie Tucker.

Michael Souse with a certain "B" horror film speech style is effective in the role of the bad doctor Murdock.  Kai Brothers is an asset to the production, playing several parts.

Trog! could be considered a farce with music, since it opens with the cast coming onto the stage in a samba dance.  The ending is part A Chorus Line and part Fosse dancing to a swinging version of Richard Strauss's  "Also Sprach Zarathustra." The choreography by Matthew and Mike is first rate.

Trog! is played on a bare stage in front of a large movie screen where projections are displayed. Background music prepared by Matthew is mostly from horror films such as the The Alligator Man. There is even some pop music thrown in to good effect.

Trog! plays through September 23rd at on the main stage of Theatre Rhino, 2926 16th Street between Mission and Van Ness, San Francisco.  Tickets can be purchased at the Theatre Rhino box office in person, or by phone at 415-861-5079.  Tickets also at www.ticketweb.com.


Photo: Basul Parik


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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