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Regional Reviews: Seattle

Ham for the Holidays: Desperate Spuddwives Offers Hearty Guffaws at Theatre Off-Jackson

Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt
Most every holiday season in recent memory, veteran comic actress/singers Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt have made the avalanche of holiday hokum on Seattle stages easier to take by offering a hilarious, hearty concoction known as Ham for the Holidays. This year's edition of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender slanted (but hetero friendly) revue, subtitled Desperate Spuddwives, may well be their freshest and funniest yet, and also contains very few actual references to the season to be jolly. Praise the lord!

Sketches by Koch and Platt, with additional material by the show's adroit director Michael Oaks, recall vintage "Carol Burnett Show" and prime "Saturday Night Live", and director Oaks makes sure the pacing never lags. Though Koch and Platt dominate, they have wisely brought back rubber faced actor/pianist/musical director D. J. Gommels, and found the droll, lanky Vincent Kovar, and both play off them with ease and great abandon.

In act one, the foursome lead off with "The Sequim Men's Chorus", which ribs gay men's choruses in general (and the Seattle Men's Chorus in particular), and a gay-centric medley of familiar holiday tunes set to Koch's clever parody lyrics and interspersed with catty banter between the three chorus members and the choirmaster. The gentlest comedy of the evening is a chuckler entitled "Singles Sandbar" in which a pair of vacationing senior citizen straight women mistakenly assume that two age appropriate straight men are gay (and vice-versa). Platt then takes a solo turn with a zesty and zany "Slam Poet" bit, and Koch wows with her comic songwriting skills on "Middle Aged Woman," which she puts over with deadpan flair.  The act one curtain comes down on "Cheney Cheney Bang Bang" in which the four take pointed musical and comedic pot-shots at "Big Bad Dick" Cheney, and several other ripe-for-the-spoofing Republicans.

Act two is, if possible, even better as it gets to the evening's piece de resistance, the Spudds: Koch and Platt as Puget Sound's own mother and daughter trailer trash country music duo, Wynotta and Euomi Spudd.  After some initial banter (including a comic nod to Platt's own recent remarkable weight loss) which serves to reintroduce the pair, all four actors do a yeoman job of quick character, costume and wig changes, as the unseen voice of Mary Ellen narrates the sinister goings on in the Spudds' new neighborhood of Hysteria Lane. Kovar is an utter riot (and a sight to behold in drag) as he takes on the Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman characters, but Gommels takes the cake (along with costumer Ken D. Powers) with his devastatingly hilarious Nicollette Sheridan, as well as fine cameos as Carlos and the snoopy Mrs. Huber. Platt doubles briefly but to great effect as Longoria's doomed mother-in-law, while Koch downright channels Teri Hatcher. No plot points will be given away here, but it should be duly noted that the current writing staff of "Saturday Night Live" didn't do half as well with their own recent spoof of "Desperate Housewives."

Scenic designer Dawn Lanphier Simon does a fine job of giving Theatre Off-Jackson's cozy stage just the right look for act one potpourri of sketches before transforming it into the Spudds' house in act two, and lighting designer Patti West uses her vast familiarity with Theatre Off-Jackson to make sure everyone looks good. Choreographer Sandra Singler provides simple but satisfying moves for the musical numbers.

In a month full of theatre, holiday slanted or not, Ham for the Holidays: Desperate Spuddwives has gotten a jump on donning its gay apparel, and putting a big ol' grin on audience members' faces. It runs through December 24 at Theatre Off-Jackson, 409 7th Avenue South in the International district of South Downtown Seattle.

For tickets and information, contact Ticket Window at (206) 325-6500 (, or

- David-Edward Hughes

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