Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Real to Reel

Reality Isn’t Pretty at the Chesapeake Arts Center
By Ghadime Taccless

Reel to Real, by C J Crawe
At the Chesapeake Arts Center’s Studio Theatre
194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park, MD 21225

This weekend, August 26-28 Friday and Saturday 8 PM
Sunday 3 PM
Tickets $12.00/members, $10.00/non-members

This past weekend marked the opening of the Chesapeake Arts Center’s contribution to the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival, which runs every summer at this time.

Mary Baker, it seems, is dying of cancer (the show is non-specific) and determined to face it with humor and a weird sort of narcissistic display: she’s invited a reality television show into her family home to film the whole process. Ghoulish? Yes. Hysterical? At times.

CJ Crawe, the play’s authoress, hopes her newest offering will be dubbed ‘schlocky melodrama.’ “Judy Rousuck described the last show I did as ‘overly arty,’” she shudders, “and it just drove me crazy.”

The show is just under two hours long, including the fifteen minute intermission, so no one should feel too tortured for too long. The official blurb and the character of Mary Baker both say she’s lived the American Dream, a ‘fairy tale,’ but the set is a nightmarish shade of Pepto-Bismol pink, though thankfully devoid of sparkling unicorns and iridescent winged godmothers.

Instead, popping in and out of scenes is surly eldest son JB Baker, played by Darrin Culvert. At one point, he delivers the line “Mom, I AM NOT GAY,” with such vehemence that this reporter suspects a touch of homophobia. Prat McFartin, as Mary’s long-suffering husband Jack, waffles and apologizes his way through several scenes. Syrup with that waffle, Jack? The show’s star, Le Dew Heart Burn, credits her stage success to her mother’s constant support. “She was the ultimate stage mom,” she says, “and I felt like Shirley Temple just all the time.”

Hippie Shakesit says of her role as TV personality Paulette Marinara, “It’s good to be a bitch. Usually, I have to pretend to LIKE people, and it’s a release to be able to let it all out.” Of playing cameraman Bryan, Mork Tyson, a lawyer in real life, did not feel at liberty to comment at this time.

Mike Wanker of Thinlickum was worried about playing smart-alecky son Collin Baker. “Usually, I’m pretty quiet,” he mumbles. When asked about working opposite a teenaged boy as his twin sister Colleen, Ashlee Thompkins of Essex says, “I like making out with him between scenes. I mean, it’s not like he’s really my brother, okay?”

Playing the trashy next-door neighbor, Helen, Sybil Palmero’s main claim to acting ability seems to be her cleavage, which may not even be real. The talented Yam Son plays Mary’s home nurse, Alice, but objects to being called an Oriental actress. “A rug is Oriental!” she screams. “I’m Asian!”

Jackson Krimble directed this farcical tragedy with a limp-wristed hand. “I’d rather be dancing,” he lisps, “but the chance to work with women in wigs was too good to pass up.”

The show runs through this Sunday.