Review - Devil Boys From Beyond: Charles or Charles?

While the campy antics of Devil Boys From Beyond may suggest an unlikely blend of screwball classics like His Girl Friday with infamous sci-fi fare such as Plan 9 From Outer Space, the movie title that kept popping into my mind was Clash of The Titans. Not because of the mythical physiques of beefy Boys Jeff Riberdy and Jacques Mitchell, but because this honey of a laff-riot matches esteemed associates from the schools of Off-Broadway's two most significant drag theatre artists.

Having transferred to New World Stages from its previous gig at the 2009 Fringe Festival, Devil Boys is co-authored (with Buddy Thomas) and directed by Kenneth Elliot, most known as co-founder of Theatre-in-Limbo, for which he mounted the original productions of Charles Busch favorites like Red Scare on Sunset and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. His leading player this time around is Paul Pecorino, who crackles with Gotham smart-girl authority as Mamie Van Buren, the Pulitzer-winning journalist for the New York Bugle, who, in 1957, teams up with her alcoholic ex-husband, photographer Gregory Graham (Robert Berliner), to nail a story concerning a series of mysterious disappearances in the town of Lizard Lick, Florida, a community plagued by generations of inbreeding.

Though under the circumstances it's only natural to think of Pecorino as playing "the Charles Busch role," any resemblance to the master in his pin-point farcical recalling of great dames like Rosalind Russell and Lauren Bacall at their chic-y extremes just means he's doing his job very well.

The Bugle's editor-in-chief, played with newsprint-in-the-veins gruffness by Peter Cormican, is counting on a big scoop to save the paper from financial ruin ("By the end of 1957 there may only be eight dailies left in New York City.") but gossip columnist Lucinda "Queen of the Blacklist" Marsh (Chris Dell'Armo, with a wicked Eve Arden-ish flair) is after headlines of her own, especially after coming across a green alien fetus.

But before their escapades can commence, the evening begins with a monologue from that major player for Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, Everett Quinton. As Lizard Lick housewife Florence Wexler, who, in a state of panic, tells of her encounter with visitors from outer space, Quinton's maddening insistence that, "I am not insane," elongating syllables to bring out overdramatic color, gloriously recalls the Ridiculous style of celebrating the grotesque. He's joined by Theatre-in-Limbo favorite Andy Halliday, as Dottie Primrose, the lusty lady who runs the only motel in town. Their middle-aged out-of-shape husbands have somehow been replaced by young aliens (Riberdy and Mitchell) whose home planet apparently includes free gym membership, as well as a common-sense message for Earthlings concerning the right for all to marry who they love.

While Devil Boys From Beyond is a small-scale production by Off-Broadway standards, B.T. Whitehill's comic strip scenic design, Gail Baldoni's smart and silly costumes, Gerard Kelly's wig work, and the over-the-top wonders of Vivien Leone's lights and Drew Fornarola's B-movie score add significantly to a wonderfully funny time.

Photos by Carol Rosegg: Top: Robert Berliner, Chris Dell'Armo, and Paul Pecorino; Bottom: Jeff Riberdy and Everett Quinton.

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