Review: ‘Happy Birthday Tina Marie’

On the afternoon of her 36th birthday, Tina Marie's life-long companion and assistant, the repressed hermaphrodite Lorna Mae (Sheila Traviss) and pill-popping agent Bobbie Dane (Ron Litman) are maniacally attempting to resurrect Tina Marie's long-dormant career.

On the afternoon of her 36th birthday, Tina Marie’s life-long companion and assistant, the repressed hermaphrodite Lorna Mae (Sheila Traviss) and pill-popping agent Bobbie Dane (Ron Litman) are maniacally attempting to resurrect Tina Marie’s long-dormant career.

Into the mix of daylong hijinx are thrust former child actor Skippy White (Chuck LaFont), a teenage rent-a-stud (Adam Biesk) and the crass, foul-mouthed Rowena Miller (Sandy Martin), who claims to be Tina Marie’s long-lost mother.

Nothing works in Thornton’s attempted satire because the playwright doesn’t seem to understand what he is satirizing: The material never delves deeper than the large-print headlines of the Enquirer, and is further sabotaged by Gretchen Somerfeld’s unimaginative staging.

Chewing what little scenery there is of Dale Tanguay’s bare-bones set, Aldrich quite effectively evokes the raging infantility of the child-woman who lusts after sugar-dipped lollipops and teenage boys.

Traviss and Litman play their roles at one level — intense. Neither is able to instill much humanity or humor into the caricatures, but Litman proves adept at physical comedy.

Faring better is Chuck LaFont as the born-again, bondage-loving Skippy White. LaFont actually strikes a hilarious balance between Skippy’s childlike idolization of Tina Marie and his rapacious desire for her teenage stud.

Sandy Martin scores a few laugh points as “mommy dearest” Rowena.

Adam Riesk is properly wide-eyed and virile as the boy-for-hire.

Happy Birthday Tina Marie

(Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; 99 seats; $ 13 top)

Production

Hothouse Stage Co. in association with Odyssey Theatre Ensemble presents the world premiere of a play in one act by Craig Thornton; director, Gretchen Somerfield; producer, Sandy Martin.

Creative

Set design, Dale Tanguay; lighting, Susan Buckner; sound design, Stephen Halbert; composer, Jeffrey Colella. Opened Jan. 5 , 1994; reviewed Jan. 9; runs through Feb. 6.

Cast

Tina Marie Fullington ... Rhonda Aldrich Lorna Mae Wilson ... Sheila Traviss Bobbie Dane ... Ron Litman Skippy White ... Chuck LaFont Boy ... Adam Biesk Rowena Miller ... Sandy Martin Even if all the weary cliches about the evils of "Tinseltown" were true, Hollywood doesn't deserve the shoddy treatment it gets from Craig Thornton's simplistic and tawdry one-acter about the life and times of has-been former child star Tina Marie Fullington (Rhonda Aldrich). Billed as a satirical black comedy, "Happy Birthday Tina Marie" coughs up such time-honored showbiz ills as alcoholism, drug addiction, dementia, pedophilia, child abuse, bondage, blackmail and murder. What it lacks is insight, humor, cohesion, direction and style.
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