Dallas — Expectations can be multi-pronged in the theater. Sometimes they let you down because you expect more; other times low expectations result in a rewarding experience. Or even better, when already high expectations are surpassed. And then there are those times when what you expect is exactly what you get. Such is the case with Jamie Morris’ Gilligan’s Fire Island, presented by Uptown Players at the Rose Room in S4 Nightclub in Oak Lawn.
I’ll take “Dumb Fun with Hot Guys and Awkward Sitcommy Transitions” for $600, Alex.
Uptown has produced Morris’ parodies of movies (Mommie Queerest, Silence of the Clams) and TV sitcoms (The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode, Re-Designing Women, the latter of which is headed off-Broadway this year), and Gilligan’s marks his first world premiere at the L.A.-based writer’s Texas home-away-from-home.
As guessed from the title, this one riffs off that 1960s show about the three-hour tour in which the S.S. Minnow was storm-tossed and left two crewmen and five passengers stranded on a deserted island complete with lagoon, an all-you-can-eat coconut buffet and the occasional headhunter from a nearby island in search of, well, head…s.
This version starts off with a modern-day box boy dancer, the porny-named Cody Tanner (a buffed-up Angel Velasco) who falls into the water on his way to a Fire Island party. He must have been knocked unconscious and dreams everything that happens next, because how else to explain why he ends up on the South Pacific isle of Gilligan when he was en route in the North Atlantic? Not to mention 50 years in the past. (Sorry, this ain’t no place for logic.)
On this island he encounters the First Mate (John Michael Colgin) and Skipper (Todd “Peaches” Richardson), the Millionaire and his wife (both Howells are played by Mikey Abrams), the Movie Star (Michael Moore in drag) and the Professor (Kevin Moore) and Mary Ann (Chad Peterson).
In the TV show, Gilligan was always getting into trouble, and that happens here, although the emphasis is on the five castaways, who, along with Cody get more stage time than the Skipper or his Little Buddy.
Director B.J. Cleveland’s production and his cast hit all of the punchlines, which are often roll-your-eyes obvious—but that’s what this kind of parody is all about. Wasn’t it Weird Al Yankovic who said that parody is not about making fun of the subject, but paying tribute to it?
Velasco is appropriately sexed-up and vapid, a cock-plied optimist who talks in text-speak (“B-T-dubs”) and is not ready to live without a single luxury. Peterson is hilarious as the Midwest girl who, in this version, is not that innocent. Michael Moore plays Ginger Grant in all her narcissistic glory, knowing there’s nothing like a dame. Kevin Moore, naturally, gets to spend much of the second act shirtless. But honestly, the Professor was far-and-away the sexiest castaway—that wasn’t just me, was it?—and not just because of his big brain.
But it’s all about Mikey Abrams. It’s an interesting choice to have the Howells played by one actor, which means they get no stage time together. It’s as if Morris wrote them with Abrams in mind. His Thurston is funny, but his Lovey is priceless. Abrams nails the vocal and physical mannerisms of both.
The plot involves a headhunter (Suzi Cranford’s costumes and Coy Covington’s wigs and makeup are, as always, divine) and Mary Ann’s quest to bed the Professor—but of course Cody gets to him first. The corn is so thick you can spread it with a Silly Putty knife, and the scene transitions aren’t always smooth—but that just adds to the sitcomminess of it all. Adam Nick Hill-Walters’ set, with huts and caves and docks, makes the most of the shallow stage.
Set your Expectation-O-Meter on Ready to Laugh, turn your thinking cap off, and have plenty of cocktails on hand. With Gilligan’s Fire Island you’re sure to get a smile.