Dallas — Three lovely young women in high-necked pastel dresses with lace bloomers, their long hair swept modestly to their crowns, smile warmly as the lights go up and they introduce in song the star of the children’s television show produced right before our eyes. Perfect teeth, glowing white skin. Who can resist?
Kaptain Kockadoo, Carla Parker’s darkly comic satire, directed by the author at Ochre House Theater, focuses on a bigoted bully who believes he’s the anointed leader of a polygamous cult that worships a cocktail-slurping cat. And that’s just for starters in this fierce, forthright feminist punch in the paunch of fundamentalist religious mythologies.
As the show gets underway, the Kaptain (Ben Bryant, in triumphal beady-eyed and braggadocio mode; and designed to reference children's show legend Captain Kangaroo) stomps into the lights in his gold-braided uniform, intent on delivering his homophobic, misogynist message to the next generation of his followers through a manically cheerful kiddie show. “Brush your hair 250 strokes, you girly-girls,” he shouts. Marriage problems? “Ask yourself, how can I serve my husband better?” How, indeed.
Featured performers include the Kaptain’s own three ruthlessly cheerful wives, pitching in as backup singers and operating wonky hand puppets, all designed by Ochre House resident artist Justin Locklear.
There’s also a trio of female musicians wedded to Uncle Willie (reliably and perversely funny Kevin Grammar), the show’s folksy second banana, outfitted in overalls and plaid.
Willie delivers his “top of your dandelion day” greeting in a down-home drawl. Aw, c’mon, kids, who doesn’t yearn for an awesome uncle like Willie, a team player who keeps the ship floating “smooth as boiled macaroni,” as the Kaptain himself declares.
Feels like a happy place to hang, right? But looks like one of the pretty wives missed a cue, and when the show takes a commercial break, we see Kaptain K in a Jekyll/Hyde moment. Bryant’s toothy smile becomes an ugly sneer, and his wives’ already taut smiles tighten to terror. Hilariously and touchingly, they try to keep peace on the set—and in their shared bed—by shaming and blaming each other.
Wide-eyed and wary Marti Etheridge is the peace-making Annabelle Anne, the eldest wife, who warns ambitious Farrah Sue (feisty Cassie Bann) that they both need the latest addition to the harem, pouty young Peanuts (a fearless, furious Korey Parker) to keep the Kaptain satisfied and off the paddle. Uh-huh, Kaptain has some special fetishes. The company sings “Magic Hands,” a creepy song that features a pair of yellow rubber gloves as an instrument of moral instruction. What are we washing out?
All must pay their obeisance to Uncle Cat, an irresistibly affable black and white marionette controlled and voiced by a slat-thin Mitchell Parrack, almost invisible in a black body suit. In the absurd and disturbing song where Kaptain is “appointed and anointed” by the object of his worship, revealed religion is not only spoofed, but riotously ridiculed.
While Bryant’s crusty Kaptain wrestles with the defiant devil in his household, Grammar’s sweet Willie keeps harmony in his band and in his bed, taking care of business during commercial breaks. The all-girl house band, comprised of Aurora de Wilde, Olivia de Guzman and Bronwen Roberts, not only deliver Justin Locklear’s rambunctious score and Parker’s pointed lyrics, but are credible as unwilling but dutiful wives to their cornpone conductor.
The 90-minute show moves swiftly and sometimes shockingly across Matthew Posey’s cheery brick and green grass set, shifting from the merely laughable to the brutal with sudden revelations and the silence—or violence—that ensues.
Turns out not all the females in the Kockadoo kingdom are proper girly-girls. Uncle Cat just may have met his Meow Mix match, and therein lies the furry tail.