I think I need a break from camp.
I realized this after attending Devil Boys from Beyond at Nearly Naked Theatre last weekend. It was, I thought, a perfectly executed send-up of old Z-grade science fiction films. But just the fact that I'm typing the phrase "send-up of old Z-grade science fiction films" for the umpteenth time makes me weary. In an age when RuPaul has his own show and in which network family-hour shows offer hourlong tributes to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, everything old seems especially not-so-new again. Shouldn't we be post-camp by now?
I get it: Scoring Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott's zany drag spoof of flying saucer movies right after it closed Off Broadway is a coup. And Devil Boys is exactly the sort of show that put Nearly Naked on the map: a hyper-comic satire of cheeseball cinema, in which some of the women are played by men in Joan Crawford drag and half of the jokes are of the nudge-and-wink variety and designed to make us feel clever for recognizing their provenance.
Devil Boys from Beyond
Devil Boys from Beyond continues through January 29 at Phoenix Theatre's Little Theater, 100 E. McDowell Rd. Visit www.nearlynakedtheatre.org.
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So, if I was bored at opening night of this comic campathon — and I was, terrifically — it wasn't because this isn't a worthy production. It's because I'm old. Old, old, old. I remember when a man wearing an earring — just one, in his earlobe — was considered shocking; when knowing who Ed Wood was (not to mention having seen his crap masterpiece, Bride of the Monster) was a rare and beautiful thing. Today, I can't help but wonder: Do people still find schlocky space-alien moves of the 1950s funny enough to write one-act parodies of?
Apparently. Because there we were, laughing in spite of ourselves at cornball gags made at the expense of already corny one-liners from old movies. Tittering at the sight of Damon Dering in a giant negligee, frying eggs; sniggering at Doug Loynd as a smart-talking newspaperwoman who's equal parts Totie Fields and Tallulah Bankhead, his face painted like a relief map of Utah. Director Toby Yatso, whose grandparents were probably in grammar school when the flickers being spoofed here were new, has spit-shined these by-now-usual goings-on, and keeps the pace of a Poverty Row programmer. Eric Beeck's amazing set is a Chinese puzzle, unfolding again and again into handy new configurations.
There's a story in there somewhere, of course — typical Hammer Horror nonsense about a small town overtaken by little green men who morph into humpy studs bent on impregnating the local gals. It's all a colossal scream, full of funny one-liners and stacked with profanity and innuendo — and it's all been done a thousand times before. Not always so well as Devil Boys from Beyond, certainly, but when it's camp — a mockery of something that's already crappy to begin with — who can tell? And does it, this late in the game, really matter? Camp used to be shocking and naughty, but lately I find it just a different kind of amusing.