Giving yourself over to absolute pleasure is pretty easy to do with the latest version of Richard O. Brien’s “Rocky Horror Show,” playing now at the Jewish Hillel Center at UM. QuantUM Productions has culled a diverse cast of young actors to bring this subversive ode to the uninhibited id to life with exuberance and virility.
Taking a cue from Broadway productions like the Roundabout Theater Company’s “Cabaret,” the show’s androgynous “phantoms” prance around the small auditorium before the show and during intermission, escorting audience members to their seats, performing lap dances on guests of any gender, and raucously shouting “virgins” when they discover someone who has never seen “Rocky” live on stage. The dim red lights and dark music further enhance the mood before the show.
The play’s premise revolves around the recently engaged Brad and Janet who stumble upon a castle on a rainy night when one of their car’s tires blows out. The master of the castle, Frank-N-Furter, and his aggressively erotic minion inhabit the place. The troupe “entertain” Brad and Janet, and show off Frank-N-Furter’s creation, muscle man Rocky Horror, in a series of hilarious musical numbers. And, oh yeah, Frank-N-Furter hails from Transsexual, Transylvania.
Theatregoers are warned that the performance of the play is much more explicit and sexually candid than the film is. Simulated sex scenes between Frank-N-Furter and Janet and Brad are unnecessarily vulgar. Then again, some fans of “Rocky” may enjoy that sort of lewdness.
The casting directors of the show should be lauded for their open-mindedness. As opposed to the whitewashed film, the play has actors from various ethnic backgrounds – cast solely for the ability to portray their characters.
The delicious Lindsay Childs (Magenta) begins the show with flair, aided by a great voice, a flashlight, and electrified hair in “Science Fiction/Double Feature.” Marcos Sanchez’s mannerisms and facial expressions as the hunched-over servant Riff Raff are remarkable; one would venture to say he plays the part better than creator O’Brien does in the film. Korken Iskenderian plays Frank-N-Furter’s quivering voice and bitchy attitude to perfection. Ryan Capiro (Brad) is a charismatic newcomer to the UM stage. The witty narrator (Sean Klitzner) does well with impromptu jokes based on the audience’s participation and reaction.
Nichole Starr (Janet) is a sight to behold in her white underwear, not only for her looks but her commitment to the character. Unlike other cast members, a glance toward Starr while another character commands the spotlight finds her firmly embedded in Janet’s persona with every look and gesture she makes, even when she is pushed into the background.
The production thrives with non-existent scenery and extravagant props. The ostentatious S&M-light costumes say enough about these characters and the kind of place they would live in. The sound wavers in some sections, as do some of the faltering voices of cast members throughout the show. The live band at the back of the stage is a nice addition to the play.
Like the film, since it follows the same strange plot, the play feels tired in the last 20 minutes, perhaps with the exception of the inspiring “Don’t Dream It, Be It.” Some of the lines are spoken too rapidly if you’re trying to pay attention to the exact storyline, but all confusion is swept aside with great numbers like “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me” and “Time Warp.” After all, “Rocky” is a cult favorite because of it’s wacky story, B-movie inspirations, and overall rebellious nature. Screw the plot, do the time warp.
The “Rocky Horror Show”‘s final performances will be tomorrow at 7 and 11 p.m. Tickets are $10 for UM students, $12 for non-UM students/Senior Citizens, and $18 for the general public.
Horacio Sierra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.