Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Chuckling Production of
The Fabulous Adventures of Captain Queer

Also see Richard's reviews of Vanities, Permanent Collection and Barry Lloyd

Jeffrey Cohlman, Dennis Parks,and Heidi Wolff, foreground: Donovan Keith
New Conservatory Theatre Center commissioned Los Angeles playwright Prince Gomolvilas to write a campy farce (the playwright had written several very good dramas, including Mysterious Skin and Debunking Love that had its world premiere at the NCTC), and Gomolvilas has responded with a slipshod gay romp that seems to throw everything into a one hour and 40 minute sham but the kitchen sink. Sometimes the focus of this farce gets completely out of hand, but the silly piece of fluff seems to be very popular with the male gay audience who love the skewering of today's pop culture. Many of the young actors in the cast are untrained in farce but they seem to having a lot of fun, like frat boys at a party with a lot of booze flowing. Dennis Park, who plays the chief villain, has the best sense of farcical acting.

Captain Queer's scenes are not all that fabulous, I am sorry to report. Some are just short oddments that have no sharp comic timing. There are some funny scenes that are parodies of Spiderman, Brokeback Mountain, and A Clockwork Orange with the theme music in the background. The parodies come fast and furious with gags about Tom Cruise, ABBA, gay movie stars, Dick Cheney, Barbara Bush, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Angelina Jolie and the SF Castro district. There is a lot of sexual innuendo and a couple of simulated sex scenes. Television gets its share of lampooning with Batman and Charlie's Angels. There is even an angel from Angels in America who admits he is in the wrong play. Sometimes the whole story loses its focus, and the underdeveloped story becomes quite wearisome. There is a gem of a story here and with further tightening of the story, especially in the villain scenes, this could be a nice little campy circus for gay theatre.

The superhero satire is about gay school senior Quentin (Jeffrey Cohlman) who transforms himself into Captain Queer. Shades of Spiderman, he has been bitten by a ladybug right on the ass and he becomes a superman with a big "Q" on his tight superman costume. However, he is the clumsiest super hero you will ever see. The evil men Dr. Reginald Screamingbottom (Dennis Parks), who happens to be ex-gay but still likes bottoms, subconsciously hatches a diabolical plot that involves a person looking like an octopus with the name, what else, Doctor Octopussy (Markham Miller). Our hero, who is a first class nerd, is in love with high school jock Martin Van Buren (Donovan Keith) and their scenes are something like a nice camp of the Spiderman films.

The fight scenes with the villains are more like crazy dances set to tacky '70s rock. They all look like fanatical Jerry Lewises dancing about the stage. The audience is happy to see that Screamingbottom captures the good looking Martin in the second act, since Donovan Keith parades around only in Calvin Klein jockey shorts, showing off his trim body.

Director Arturo Catricala has assembled some very young actors who have had limited experience in theatre. Playing nonsensical roles is a difficult feat for young actors but I give them an A for effort. Jeff Cohlman (studied at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood), who is tall and gangly, seems to be comically unskilled in the role of a klutzy hero. He looks like the spoiled nephew of J.B. Biggley in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. However, he does have a very funny opening and closing line when he tells the audience, "Whenever there is a lesbian screaming for help, or a gay man crying in pain, or a closing of a Pottery Barn, I will be there."

Donovan Keith (majored in film at UC Santa Cruz and recently completed ACT's summer training) gives a good performance and is automatically sexy when parading around in his underwear. In his other roles, including a Nazi youth and an ice cream peddler, he gives an adequate performance for his tender years. He is especially good when the villain straps him to chair where his "jewels" are getting zapped by electric shots. There are some great zingers every time the jolts hit that area. This young man has great charisma and should be destined for better roles in the future.

Dennis Parks (several NCTC productions including What's Wrong with Angry?) as Reginald Screamingbottom gives the best professional performance and has an excellent hold on farce especially when he is lecturing the audience on "the evils of homosexuality" and how he plans to rid of the world of gay people by feeding them a special liquid that will make them all heterosexuals. It is an over the top but fun performance. He is perfectly slimy in the role and puts Lex Luthor to shame.

Heidi Wolff (member of the Last Planet Theatre) and Christin Davis (third year MFA student at American Conservatory Theatre) are the two women in this parody. Ms. Wolff is particularly effective as the gay devotee, bar-drinking mother of Quentin. Ms. Davis gives a zestful energetic performance as Quentin's lesbian best friend who is sometimes dressed as Wonder Woman.

Markham Miller (his fifth appearance at the NCTC) gives a good performances as Dr. Octopussy in an outrageous costume straight out of an Ed Wood movie designed by Jeffrey LaLonde who did the costumes for NCTC's Whoop-Dee-Doo!. Miller also plays a cartoonish Nazi as a German General Patton.

Bruce Walters has designed a very good set that looks like a Warner Brothers cartoon and he has done the hilarious supertitle projections that are above the stage. Many of the titles look like what you saw on the Batman television series. The sound design by Ted Crimy adds to the gags that come fast and furious. Arturo Catricala has directed this farce with very expansive strokes, sometimes going completely overboard.

The Fabulous Adventures of Captain Queer plays through July 9th at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave off Market, San Francisco. For tickets please call 415-861-8972 or visit

Next is Kiss of the Spider Woman, opening on August 11 and running through September 17

Photo: Lois Tema

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

- Richard Connema

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