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BWW Review: Stray Dog Theatre's Maniacally Funny DEVIL BOYS FROM BEYOND

Each December Stray Dog Theatre chooses an unconventional show to celebrate the season. It's always something unusual, and often something somewhat shocking. I like that idea of going against the grain, and giving audiences relief from the Christmas overload that all forms of media utilize at this time of year. To close out 2015, they've chosen the campy and wildly over the top DEVIL BOYS FROM BEYOND, a sort of mash-up of ideas plucked from 1950's and early 60's science fiction fare like Mars Needs Women and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There's also an early effort from the UK called Devil Girl from Mars, which may have provided inspiration for authors Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott (music and original sound design by Drew Fornarola). Whatever the case, this is a truly nutty, whacked-out comedy that has something to offend everyone, but somehow rises above its initial shock value with allusions to equal pay for women, and the need for the acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Stray Dog Theatre's latest yuletide foray is a delightfully twisted blast from the past!

Aliens living inside the core of what we used to call the planet Pluto have descended on the tiny town of Lizard Lick, Florida with the expressed purpose of reproducing. Competing reporters Matilda Van Buren, with ex-husband and photographer Gregory Graham in tow, and Lucinda Marsh arrive on the scene looking for a scoop. Needless to say, they all get more than they bargained for as relationships become entangled, and the locals, who seem oddly sexually aroused, fend off their probing questions. Some of the jokes are a bit labored (pun intended), but it's all very wickedly entertaining.

Most of the actors play this piece like characters straight out of a B movie, and the liberal doses of profanity add to the off kilter nature of the show. Michael Juncal, appearing in drag as Florence Wexler, appears at the beginning to set up the premise, explaining how her husband and beloved dog disappeared after a spacecraft crashed into their shed. You can't help but laugh at Juncal, in full makeup, shaved legs, and bright red wig. And yet, he's so into the part that you suspend your disbelief (sort of). The same could be said for Michael Baird, who thoroughly convinces as the villainous Lucinda Marsh, adding winks and little leg kicks at every turn and exit. Sarajane Alverson is perfect as Matilda, a model of 50's womanhood. She's plucky and determined, but wouldn't seem out of place toddling around the "kitchen of tomorrow" (you know, the kind you'd see in some old short sponsored by an appliance company). And, as a bonus, Alverson delivers the only true song of the show in brilliant fashion.

Jonathan Hey is solid as the Perry White of the piece, the chief editor of the New York Bugle, Gilbert Wiatt, and Stephen Peirick does very nice work as struggling alcoholic Gregory Graham, who tries to resist the various temptations that are coming at him from any number of angles. Teryl Thurman amuses as the horny old owner of the only motel in Lizard Lick, while Ryan Wiechmann (Harry Wexler) and Brandon Brendel (Sheriff Jack Primrose) provide the beefcake.

Gary Bell's direction is splendid, mining this crazy work for all its comedic nuggets, while remaining true to the tropes of the B movies it parodies. Justin Been's scenic design keeps things simple, but effective, and features a coolly rendered billboard backdrop. Tyler Duenow, once again, provides a clever lighting scheme that somehow captures all the madness occurring on stage. Eileen Engel's costume designs feature nice throwbacks to the era, as well as some bizarre outfits that are a riot on their own.

Stray Dog Theatre's production of DEVIL BOYS FROM BEYOND is hilarious, and occasionally lewd, but always engaging. It runs through December 19, 2015 at the Tower Grove Abbey.

Photo credit: John Lamb


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From This Author Chris Gibson