By Erasmus Fenn; Directed by Joe Brancato
Presented by the Peccadillo Theater Company
Produced by Penguin Rep Theatre
Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 8.10.14
Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 West 46th Street
by Regina Robbins on 7.21.14
Everett Quinton and Jason Cruz in Drop Dead Perfect. Photo by John Quilty.
BOTTOM LINE: This adults-only comedy with a queer twist is silly and well-acted, but not destined for immortality.
The Florida Keys. A rich spinster. A would-be artist in a leg brace. A visitor from Cuba. A frustrated magician. These are the building blocks of Drop Dead Perfect, an original play that spoofs 1950s film and TV. The final product doesn’t really make sense, even as a wacky comedy, but it gives four game performers plenty of room to do their thing.
Drop Dead Perfect stars Everett Quinton, a legend of off Broadway theatre, as Idris Seabright, an eccentric woman of means with a painful family history. Idris’ nearsighted, disabled ward Vivien (Jason Edward Cook) aspires to a bohemian artist’s life in New York, but Idris is determined to keep her from leaving home. When Ricardo (Jason Cruz), a long-lost relative, arrives with a gun and a sob story, Idris and Vivien’s already tense relationship is further strained. Meanwhile, Phineas (Michael Keyloun), the family lawyer, is kept busy doing Idris’ errands, trying to win Vivien’s love, and performing bad magic tricks.
The script, by novelist-turned-playwright Erasmus Fenn, is crammed full of references to famous plays and movies, from the serious (The Glass Menagerie) to the campy (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?); in fact, the plot is eventually taken over by allusions to a certain classic sitcom starring a daffy redhead and her Latino spouse. Despite the retro setting, the play’s tone is decidedly adult, with endless dirty puns and double-entendres, both straight and gay. Director Joe Brancato and the cast treat the material with the seriousness it deserves -- which is to say, none. Quinton shows the total commitment to absurdity that has won him two Obie Awards, and everyone else follows his lead. (Cook and Cruz deserve special credit for their legit Latin dance number.)
It’s evident that this is writer Fenn’s first play, but at a trim 90 minutes, its issues (like the fact that the magic subplot goes nowhere) can be overlooked by those who are seeking a well-executed broad comedy. It’s a throwback not only to the soapy and slap-happy entertainment of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but also to the golden age of downtown theatre, the early ‘80s, when Quinton and his cohorts changed the game. Drop Dead Perfect isn’t, but its star is still in fine form.
(Drop Dead Perfect plays at the Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 West 46th Street, through August 10, 2014. Performances are Wednesdays through Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 3PM and 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $25 and are available at dropdeadperfect.com or by calling 845.786.2873.)