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BWW Review: Fantastic Z's DEVIL BOYS FROM BEYOND a Bit Too Campy

Devil Boys From Beyond
The cast of Fantastic Z Theatre's
Devil Boys From Beyond
Photo credit: Alex Garland Photography

Fantastic Z Theatre is closing out their season of gay comedy with the campy take on 50's sci-fi, Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott's "Devil Boys From Beyond". And while this crazy romp certainly has the fun of their previous shows, at times the camp gets to be a bit much to the point of lacking focus and it's there where the play suffers.

It's a fairly common tale for 50's sci-fi as hardnosed reporter Matilda Van Buren (Jackie Miedema) is sent to a small backwater Florida town with her crack photographer and ex-husband Gregory Graham (Jordan-Michael Whidbey) to investigate recent UFO reports. Trailing after them is rival reporter Lucinda Marsh (Jane Martin) who's looking to scoop them on the story. Their disbelief in the story soon changes when they get down there and discover the wives of the town such as Florence Wexler or Dotty Primrose (Patrick J. Lucey-Conklin and Jessica Severance) acting strange. Why are they behaving so odd and insisting nothing's wrong? And why do they not seem to mind that their fat, lazy husbands have been replaced by the hot and hunky Devil Boys from Beyond?!? Oh wait, I answered my own question.

The show is quite reminiscent of the drag plays of Charles Busch such as his hilarious "Psycho Beach Party" (which Fantastic Z just did a few months back) but unlike Busch's plays, "Devil Boys ..." lacks the story structure and elegance of dialog needed to make a parody like this truly shine. Sure it's fun and campy but often times any kind of focus feels shoved aside for just being over the top. And that attitude of the play is reflected in the production as director Darren Lee Johnson seems to have directed all the actors to go as far over the top with their characterizations as possible. It's a bold choice but if everything is dialed up to 11 then there's no variation or contrast to give the piece a good build.

The cast is fun and in the moment but tend to suffer from the lack of variation and focus. Lucey-Conklin and Severance deliver quite a few laughs as the horned up housewives but their over the top nature sometimes devolved into just yelling. Also a big problem for Stephanie Spohrer as the newspaper editor Gilbert Wiatt who's constant mugging began to wear after while. Jordan Henderson and Robert Lovett are adorable as the scheming Devil Boys especially at the end when their not so nefarious scheme is revealed. And they certainly provide some nice eye candy. Whidbey is fun as the photographer who doesn't know what he wants other than another drink but he too fell victim to that lack of focus. Really the standouts who managed much of the solid character work of the play were Miedema and Martin who have two different sides of that hard as nails, 1950's power woman characterization down especially Miedema who manages a cross between Katharine Hepburn and William Shatner.

So yeah, it's a fun bit of chaos but that chaos could stand to be tempered with a bit more care and thought to take it beyond a cliché camp/drag show. And so with my three letter rating system I give Fantastic Z's "Devil Boys From Beyond" an amused but a bit overdone MEH+. Camp is all well and good but camp without thought gets exhausting.

"Devil Boys From Beyond" from Fantastic Z Theatre performs at Eclectic Theater through October 15th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.fantasticz.org.


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From This Author Jay Irwin