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BWW Review: HUSH UP, SWEET CHARLOTTE at The Laboratory Theater Of Florida is campy fun


BWW Review: HUSH UP, SWEET CHARLOTTE at The Laboratory Theater Of Florida is campy fun

The set is a decaying plantation. But instead of a delicate Southern belle, the leading "lady" is a burly man in a towering platinum wig, dressed in pastel pink. Yes, you have entered the tilted world of "Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte" at The Laboratory Theater.

The play is a parody of the classic film with nearly the same name in which Bette Davis was the afore-mentioned belle now portrayed by Brian Linthicum. The character has teetered on the edge of madness ever since she was accused years before of murdering her married lover. Now, what's left of the family manse is about to be torn down for a new bridge, so Miz Charlotte summons her street-wise cousin Miriam to "hep" her.

Randall Kenneth Jones takes on the role played by Olivia de Havilland in the movie. He minces in on high heels dressed in bad girl red just in case you don't realize Miriam is the villain of the piece. (Kudos on the heels, by the way. I couldn't get through the evening in a pair.) With the assistance of the town doctor and some drugs, Miriam gaslights Charlotte in the hope of acquiring her money.

The cast gleefully embraces every melodramatic cliché to the delight of the audience, many of whom seemed to be regulars at the theater. Linthicum, Jones, and the others strike poses with exaggerated expressions as ominous music underlines the suspense. All that is lacking is someone with a mustache to twirl. To add to the fun, director Annette Trossbach throws in slapstick, bawdiness, and a cross-dressing, spittoon-addicted sheriff. We were warned before the show started to keep our hands, feet, and wine glasses out of the aisles since the show is "interactive." Sure enough, Jones broke right through the proverbial fourth wall to greet audience members like long-lost friends.

When you come right down to it, it's summer in Florida and too hot to think heavy thoughts. If you are looking for an over the top escape from reality, sort of like Charlotte is, this is the place to be. The show runs weekends through July 1. For tickets, call 239.218.0481.

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