Buzzworks Theater Company’s rudely hilarious production of Maxwell Anderson’s “Bad Seed” is not overly respectful to the original text, which is a nice way of saying company members found the play stilted and silly. To remedy things, they provided a Facilitator (Kyle Blitch), who sits atop an onstage fridge dispensing “audience participation indicators” ranging from cues for applause or dialogue to dropped tissues representing departures from the source material. Beyond that, helmer Danny Schmitz directs his cast to begin over the top and rocket skywards from there, and, in a crowning touch, he plays the titular murderous 8-year-old himself.
Rhoda (Schmitz) appears to be the perfect little girl, but people keep dropping dead mysteriously around her, and her mother Christine (Andrea Hutchman) is worried. Garrulous neighbor Monica (Cheryl Hawker) thinks Rhoda is blameless, but various others, from schoolteacher Miss Fern (Cathryn Michon) to the grieving Mr. & Mrs. Daigle (Melissa Peterman), believe Rhoda is a monster. When handyman Leroy (Judy Heneghan) starts snooping around for proof of Rhoda’s crimes, the shocking truth is revealed.
Schmitz’s Rhoda is more appealing as concept than performance, but the inherent goofiness of a tall man in a little dress and pigtails carries the role a long way. Hutchman brings a veritable cornucopia of exquisitely overwrought concerned expressions, and comedically is pitch-perfect. Hawker is similarly choice as Monica, blithely plowing through drifts of exposition. Michael Halpin is very funny as Monica’s “larvated homosexual” brother Emory, and the scene in which he emerges from his cocoon in crotchless and bottomless pants to the tune of “I’m Coming Out” is a highlight.
Michon is a hoot as the flirty Miss Fern, and Pete Colburn is delightfully odd as the wheelchair-bound crime writer Reginald. Blitch smirks and preens with deadpan panache, and Peter Staloch offers a bluff display of ’50s manliness in a couple of roles. Heneghan tries hard but doesn’t quite succeed as the creepy Leroy, seeming more like a collection of mannerisms than a character. Finally, Melissa Peterman steals the show as Mr. & Mrs. Daigle (Mr. Daigle is a hand puppet). She nails every second of this role, from her disastrous entrances and exits to her brilliantly rendered drunken stupor, and gives one of the funniest and most memorable perfs of the year.
Schmitz’s amusingly cluttered set, featuring such random things as a tapestry of the famous poker-playing dogs and a poster for “Another Country,” proves an appropriate home for all the comedic chaos. The cast has provided its own wonderful costumes, from Reginald’s dreadful striped ensemble to Mrs. Daigle’s awesome combo of a too-small yellow dress, mussed-up hair, smeared mascara and lipstick applied directly to her teeth. Richard Levinson’s cheerfully spooky keyboard accompaniment adds notably to the production.