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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Beaverhausen Off-Broadway: Drop Dead Perfect

Everett Quinton, Jason Cruz
Erasmus Fenn's Drop Dead Perfect, starring Everett Quinton as one Idris Seabright, opened July 20 and will play off-Broadway at Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 W 46th St., through August 10th. Quinton, a member of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company and partner (artistically and in life) with the late Charles Ludlam, keeps the sensibility of Ridiculous Theatrical alive. That is, Drop Dead Perfect is perfectly camp, anti-naturalistic in terms of its deliberately broad acting style and aesthetic choices, and chock-full of references to pop culture; namely film noir, pulp fiction and 1950s movie and theatrical potboilers with a rather heavy side order of I Love Lucy. Quinton as Idris chews up the scenery as if inhabiting the best 1950s movie-melodrama Joan Crawford never starred in.

In the best tradition of Ridiculous Theatrical, Drop Dead Perfect is where absurdist farce careens sharply into the utterly surreal within a deftly plotted, coherent story line all beautifully brought to life by four men portraying three men and two women.

This 90-minute production played to a packed crowd at the intimate venue; they were highly appreciative of the comedy's conceits, knowingly in on the jokes and pop-cultural references, and increasingly amused and titillated to almost growing, orgasmic laughter by climax.

Set in Key West in 1952 (the year of my birth as I'm sure you all know by now, gentle readers), Drop Dead Perfect involves a repressed spinster; her young, resentful adopted daughter; a Cuban gigolo and a sleazy lawyer (is there any other kind?) in a steamy stew of representational acting run amok, broad physical comedy, mugging, Douglas Sirk movie melodramas, Lucy and Ricky, Mommie Dearest, Jayne Eyre and more.

Photo by Buddy Beaverhausen
The cast, under the direction of Joe Brancato, shines and is simply the most talented ensemble imaginable. Jason Edward Cook is featured in one of the most flawless gender-bending performances I have ever witnessed. Jason Cruz brings the right mix of sex appeal and over-the-top histrionics to his role. And Michael Keyloun brings a bit of a John Cleese quality to his character's goofy superciliousness.

Set design and lighting are most effective for a show on a small budget (James J. Fenton, Ed McCarthy, respectively). Sound designer William Neal adds to the outrageous humor with some of his archival sources. Costumes by Charotte Palmer Lane are memorable and somewhere between Fifties-retro camp and visual comic jokes in and of themselves, while Lorna Ventura's choreography is strikingly hyperbolic and delightfully performed by its cast to great effect.

Buddy Beaverhausen had a rough day today, people. I arrived at the church in the chapel for this irreverent romp feeling fried, steamy, sticky, tired, uncomfortable, unhappy and just in no mood. But, lo and behold, a miracle at St Clement's, which was Drop Dead Perfect. I went back out into the street restored, renewed, rejuvenated. Never underestimate the power of art, the sensibility of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, live theater brilliantly conveyed by all involved, nor camp nor well done comedy. It was all just so drop dead perfect. So, I say: This summer in New York, please do youself a favor and don't miss this limited engagement. Limited dates, unlimited talent and pleasure.

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