September 30 , 2005
Camp‘ at Late Night
Since the late 1990s, Late Night Theatre, an iconoclastic bevy of cross-dressing satirists, has created highly original and creatively irreverent works. The bulk of their shows manage to both spoof and relish campy films and television shows. The variety and volume of their repertoire, including The Stepford Wives, Valley of the Dolls, The Birds and an all-female version of Bonanza, has established a dedicated following for Late Night.
On occasion, Late Night, under the artistic direction of the inimitable Ron Megee, has ventured away from the recreation of popular classic pieces of media and focused its attention on an original work. An example, Supermodels in Space, was written and directed by David Wayne Reed and John Cupit, and is now being staged at Late Night.
Reed and Cupit created a storyline but still relied heavily on references to popular American entertainment, particularly science fiction, making sardonic homage to such phenomena as Star Trek and Star Wars.
Supermodels in Space does contain a plot but its importance is negligible. The program lists seven costume designers. The environment in the theatre includes a fog machine, laser lights and a video monitor. Using an aesthetic that might be named “Futurist Camp,” the highly collaborative design staff took every opportunity to use properties and costume pieces that light up — sunglasses, armbands, earrings and hats. Reed and Cupit gave themselves and their collaborators the opportunity to put shiny things on the stage.
The visuals inspire awe and the absurd, flimsy plotline brilliantly exists as an introduction to this world of space travel gaudiness. In this world of tomorrow, politics have become futile and beauty reigns supreme. Gigantic photographs of makeup, hair and skin care products cover part of the set. Even the lines read as space-age permission for campy design extremes: "May the fierce be with you", "In space, no one can hear you model" and "Without me, you are a bunch of flip-flops in a world of thigh-highs."
The creators scattered musical production numbers throughout the show, a common convention in all of the Late Night productions. The most hypnotically bizarre event of Supermodels in Space occurs at the close of Act I. Jessalyn Kincaid plays Ikahna Von Thundersnatch, the villainess. Thundersnatch (Kincaid strikes herself in the groin every time she says that name) impersonates a star as part of her dastardly scheme. She enters in a costume of epic proportions, including a headdress made of two large cheerleading pom-poms. She lip-syncs the song "Twiggy v. James Bond" by the Pizzicato Five.
Kincaid drips with sultry evil every second she's onstage, but in this song she electrifies the audience with detailed gyrations and perfect mouthing of fast, staccato lyrics. The ensemble supports her star turn with an eerily slow, controlled dance, each dancer manipulating a mask of the svelte ‘60's model Twiggy. Though choreographer Ashley Otis tends to over use symmetry, the dance, along with the oddity of the driving music, Kincaid's commanding presence and the galactic costuming tantalizes the viewer.
The entire cast matches Kincaid's energy and irreverent humor. Justin Van Pelt, having proven his versatile talents in Convenience at the Unicorn Theatre, Hedwig and the Angry Itch with Eubank Productions and The Dinosaur Musical at the Coterie Theatre plays Splenda Lux, the android character. Van Pelt's Splenda possesses sultrily precise timing and perfect diction.
Late Night actors make a common practice of breaking character, including verbally referencing their own flubbed line or complaining how long the previous scene took. Van Pelt's ventures out of character take an especially charming turn. He breaks out of his bombastic drag demeanor, mumbles sarcastically and rolls his eyes at the other performers' behavior.
Chadwick Brooks as the Telepathic Candi Barr (the writers put some energy into the characters' names) wobbles in his high heels and steals focus with wide, wandering eyes and a flowing blonde wig.
Cory James Dowman plays the male protagonist with the evocative name Starfucker, whom we first meet as a barista at Starbucks. Dowman provides a masculine contrast to his cast members, as campy as the others, but in a manly way. He sings Elton John's "Rocket Man" with a melodramatic delight.
Peregrine Honig, Hadley Johnson, Georgianna Londre, Venus Starr, Sunny Dawn Summers, Laurel Sears Rush and Andrea Monique Wortman all designed costumes, and each ensemble is a work of art, exploring extremes of size, color and sheer ridicule. Having a septet of designers for the attire provided garish variety.
In musical theatre, a flimsy plot can sometimes distract the audience from appreciating the songs. Cupit and Reed made a conscious choice to create a B-movie script and to mount a production that uses humor to treat the words with little respect. The true artistry in Supermodels in Space comes from the visual and musical sensations.
Supermodels in Space runs through Oct. 22 at Late Night Theatre, 1531 Grand. Tickets are $18. Call 816-235-6222 or visit www.latenighttheatre.com.
David Ollington can be contacted at Ollington@aol.com.
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