Nearly Naked Theatre's Oedipus for Kids! Makes a Mockery of a Failed Marriage
Things were looking up, even before Nearly Naked Theatre's Oedipus for Kids! commenced on opening night. It's always nice to open a playbill and read that Johanna Carlisle is among the actors about to take the stage. And even nicer to read the occasional actor bio that pokes fun at actor bios, as Doug Loynd's does so amusingly in this program. There was a humorous faux playbill passed out, as well, pertaining to the pretend play-within-a-play that's at the heart of Gil Varod and Kimberly Patterson's kinky little comedy about the Fuzzy Duck Theatre Company, a three-person troupe of would-be actors who do nuts-o translations of the classics. And there was Damon Dering's always-charming curtain speech, which I admit is always my favorite thing about any Nearly Naked production.
This time, that curtain speech had some real competition. Although Oedipus for Kids! is really just more of the same camp shtick from a company that's been doing this for a decade, it's also as fresh and fun as it was the last dozen times.
As sometimes happens, the audience is asked to play a group of kids attending the latest performance by an educational theater troupe whose married principals, played by Loynd and Carlisle, have just broken up backstage. Their young castmate, played by Chad McCluskey, is an imbecile and the son of the company's sponsor, which manufactures coffee for children. While the feuding marrieds spend the evening trying to destroy one another's performance in this irreverently sexy "translation" of Oedipus, McCluskey's young cluck runs off with a sweetly silly routine that's dry as toast.
Director Toby Yatso knows how to spit-shine a play that's supposed to look trashy and ill-planned, and he does us the favor of slowing down Loynd and Carlisle's backstage brawls so that we can enjoy their witty jabs and face-pulling. Opening night, which marked this musical's Arizona debut, provided the unexpected plus of watching Loynd react to the poor slob who was dragged up on stage to enact Sophocles' infamous plagues. Less-spontaneous high points included a soft-shoe hat-and-cane number called "Be Kind to the Blind," and a hilarious scarf dance during a song called, appropriately enough, "Lover, Husband, Son." (Better yet, a song called "A Little Complex" oozes with cheesy entendre: "Whatever Oedipus touches/Oedipus wrecks!")
Equal parts Noises Off and Charles Busch, this oxymoronic freak-out is fun, especially if you haven't seen a half-dozen similar vehicles tucked onto the same stage. I have, but still had a good time at a show that marks the official start of the new theater season.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.