Also see Kevin's review of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
The swinging ’60s have come full circle in Sleeping Beauty, or Coma, the second half of Sol Theatre Project’s Charles Busch FreakFest. The Sol streamlines a path between the Fab Four and the Glimmer Twins to take us back to a time when things were mod and psychedelic. But this ain’t no Austin Powers rip-off! This is Charles Busch at his nastiest, putting Robert Hooker back in top form.
Sleeping Beauty spans twenty years, starting in 1966 where a temp, Enid Wetwhitsle (Erryn Dalton), shimmies into the fashion house of Sebastian Lorre (Jim Gibbons). The crazed mogul is busy working with top socialite Anthea (Melissa McSherry), trying to keep her "pop." Unfortunately, Lorre is losing his touch due to his old-fashioned designs; higher hemlines are now the rage! In comes Fauna Alexander (Jim Sweet), Lorre's seamstress, to save the day by sliding in her own sketches to please Anthea. Instead of gratitude, Lorre scorns Fauna by firing her and keeping her designs. Once Fauna is rushed away, Lorre is in a quandary about who he will use as his next top model. The windup: Enid comes in with some old rags to use as drapes for her loft. The pitch: Lorre finds his next protégé!
Home run? Not so fast! Enid becomes disillusioned with Lorre’s whims and escapes his clutches. Lorre and his assistant Miss Thicke (Jeff Holmes) are now on the chase. Enid bumps into Fauna and her roommate Ian (Ford D’Aprix), a hunky photographer with a sweet tooth for alcohol. Together, the trio decide to set the world on its ear with Fauna’s designs. So they take a trip (literally) through wild parties, menages-a-trois, and who can forget the Timothy Leary mantra: tune in ... you know the rest.
And Charles Busch knows it, too. Busch takes us on a ride of what it was like during the British invasion. Just like Sodom, camp is involved in Coma, and substance abuse is not lurking far behind. The play takes a dark turn when revenge and drugs play a huge part in the climax. The ending may be convoluted, but in Busch's world, it’s still happy. And isn’t that what we all need? Besides love?
Robert Hooker and company imbue the Beatles and the Rolling Stones into the mix and it works well. Also working well again is the ensemble feel that Hooker has installed at the Sol since its inception three years ago. The disadvantages are the uneven dialects that should be worked on more to give us that jolly English feel. Set that aside and the Sol gives a good, wily rendition here.
Erryn Dalton’s portrayal of Enid is one reason to see this show. Dalton is back in her own skin. As Enid, she instills a sense of innocence and naiveté that comes with being a country girl in big, bad London. And when Dalton shakes her stuff to “Get Off of My Cloud” and other Stones hits, we know she’s having fun and we want to dance right along with her.
Ford D’Aprix and Jim Sweet make great accomplices as Ian and Fauna, respectively. Jim Gibbons gives the villainous Sebastian Lorre a gay swagger, but a believable darkness. His accent is the only one that is true. Jeff Holmes makes the pristine sidekick in Miss Thicke, joined by Melissa McSherry as Anthea, the pre-Paris Hilton, and Ross Pivec as a '80s kooky nutritionist.
Along with Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Sleeping Beauty, or Coma is a perfect fit for the Charles Busch FreakFest. Go see why the Sol is the New Times’ Best Fringe Theatre this year. The fest will wrap up December 19th at 1140 NE Flager Drive in Fort Lauderdale. For more information, please call (954) 525-6555 or www.Soltheatre.com.
SOL THEATRE PROJECT - Sleeping Beauty, or Coma
Written by Charles Busch
Cast: Erryn Dalton, Ford D’Aprix, Jim Gibbons, Jeff Holmes,
Designed by Jim Gibbons and Robert Hooker
Directed by Robert Hooker
See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.
-- Kevin Johnson