‘Exorcistic’ Conjures Film, Musical Theater, and SATAN
by Ramona Pilar Gonzales
Editor in Chief
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen pop culture brought to the stage. Captured Aural Phantasy combines old-school radio theater, comics and stage performances. ElVerde combines the vim and vigor or the Adam West-helmed Batman TV series, comic books and stage. Screenwriter/Playwright Josefina Lopez has adapted her screenplays (and now, her first novel) to stage, resulting in a hybrid form. In what appears to be a developing LA theater trend, Exorcistic: (Or your Mother Sucks Cocks in Hell) THE ROCK MUSICAL PARODY EXPERIMENT pays a theatrical homage to William Friedkin’s 1970’s horror juggernaut The Exorcist.
At the top of this sendup of The Exorcist-meets-Noises Off musical play-within-a-Fringe-Festival-Entry, the audience is informed by the show’s writer (who is also, of course, performing) that we are at a staged reading of their proposed entry. From there we’re introduced to the cast of archetypes: The Stage Manager (who wants to act), The Beleaguered Writer/Performer, The Pompous Director, and the array of actor types – The Grand Dame, The Kiss Ass Climbers and, lastly, The Method Actor who plays Megan (not Regan, for legal reasons), the young girl who is famously possessed by a demon after playing with a Ouija board. Exorcistic takes the audience through the development of the piece from staged reading to opening night performance; all the while, danger encroaches in on them. The company’s seemingly cursed Fringe Festival entry mirrors the “cursed” production of The Exorcist, inducing them to comically ponder whether or not evil exists in the modern world.
In a genre (musical theater) that can very easily veer off into unintentional farce, Orgasmico Theatre Company, as a whole, proves more than competent at balancing irreverent performances with quality production value. Most of the music (books, lyrics and music by The Writer, Michael Shaw Fisher) was right on. Really. It screamed Jesus Christ Superstar 70s wah pedal realness. Shaw takes the film’s melodrama and deftly crafts musical numbers that rival the satiric stylings of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The one glaring misstep was the decision to include a rap song. White people doing rap – or “acting” black for that matter – for the ironic sake of comedic value is an old and tired device, an easy grab at laughs. The rest of the songs proved Shaw and company are better than that.
Laura Sperazza as Megan (the Method Actor) was a powerhouse. She was the only one dripping sweat in that icebox of a theater and that’s because she worked her chonied ass off like everyone’s rent was due. However, that she used a six-year-old voice to play a 12-year-old almost murdered her performance. Adults playing children is inherently creepy and disturbing as it is. Add to that a 12-year-old with a six-year-old’s voice singing a thinly veiled song about masturbation (“Howdy Captain Howdy”) with a lecherous, cowboy fringe wearing, personified demon (the deliciously lascivious Curt Bownem as Captain Howdy) mock penetrating her from behind, and it’s just gross. There was a brief conversation written into the show as to whether or not said song was “offensive” as an effort to absolve themselves of any responsibility for an unpleasant audience response. An almost 13-year-old masturbating and talking in a six-year-old voice isn’t offensive, it’s obvious. Parody/satire would have been to comment on the hypersexualization of adolescent girls by contrasting it, critiquing it, challenging it in some way, not gleefully making snow angels in it.
The production made a prodigious use of space – actors used all available entrances and exits, and interacted with the audience – culminating hilariously in the penultimate number “The Longest Suicide Note Ever Written.” The minimalist set – one or two main pieces and a handful of props and costumes – allowed the actors’ talents and the production team to buttress the weight of the show. Exorcistic would not have been the joyous romp that it was without the synchronicity of the lighting, sound and action on stage. Comedy is nothing without timing, and this production had a glut of it.
* * *
“WINNER OF BEST MUSICAL HOLLYWOOD FRINGE 2013
NOW EXTENDING AT SACRED FOOLS THEATER”
EXORCISTIC: THE ROCK MUSICAL PARODY EXPERIMENT
Orgasmico Theatre Company
Directed by Pat Towne
Book, Lyrics and Music by Michael Shaw Fisher
Musical Arrangement and Musical Direction by Michael Teoli
Sacred Fools Theater
600 N Heliotrope Dr
LA CA 90004
Performances: July 25, August 1, August 8, August 15 – 9:00pm
Ticket info available at the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival website