The Fringe Festival usually throws up a couple of shows you can bank on, and “Devil Boys From Beyond,” a sci-fi campfest by Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott, performs that service here. Although skimpy on the cheesy effects that made 1950s sci-fi movies such a howl (where is Ed Wood when you need him?), this giddy drag show hands great dress-up roles to the divine Everett Quinton and other well-seasoned veterans of the arcane art of low drag. “Beyond” is so perfectly positioned among the offbeat supermarket offerings at New World Stages that its imperfections hardly register — or matter.
While not up to the level of a Roger Corman opus, the script is silly and stupid enough to work with. The year is 1957, and a flying saucer has landed in the deep swamps of Lizard Lick, Fla. The alarm is raised by anxious housefrau Florence Wexler (Everett Quinton) and motel owner Dotty Primrose (Andy Halliday), who claim their husbands have been abducted by aliens. Meanwhile, up in New York, the Daily Bugle prepares to ace out its tabloid competitors by sending down its star reporter, Mattie Van Buren (Paul Pecorino), and her drunken lover, photographer Gregory Graham (Robert Berliner), to cover the story — if Mattie’s sworn rival, the duplicitous Lucinda Marsh (Chris Dell’Armo), doesn’t get there first.
Despite some delicious drag performances from the all-male ensemble and a trick ending that gives the groundlings some beefcake to ogle, the shenanigans that play out in Lizard Lick are mildly funny, but not clever or outrageous enough to bring down the house.
In his helming capacity, Kenneth Elliott keeps the pace up and the energy level high, and he makes a decent stab at some tacky sci-fi gimmicks. But neither he nor co-scribe Buddy Thomas seems to worship this cheesy genre with the inherently pure, manic adoration needed to supply the show with the imaginative insanity it lacks.
Lavishing more of that affection on movies like “The Front Page” and “His Gal Friday,” the scribes show more invention in the scenes featuring Pecorino’s monstrously funny Roz Russell take on Mattie. If teeth were knives, Dell’Armo’s bad-girl Lucinda would be cut to ribbons by Pecorino’s smiling choppers.
Meanwhile, down in Lizard Lick, it’s all up to the ladies. Quinton, a beloved fixture of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company, is without peer at conveying the rude satirical thrust of that house tradition. Although costumed (by Gail Baldoni) and wigged (by Gerard Kelly) like Little Mary Sunshine on steroids, his manly mug and raspy baritone give the game away. It’s a performance style that doesn’t pretend to emulate feminine behaviors so much as raise hilarious comment on 1950s-era gender roles.
While Halliday comes out of a kinder, gentler, less subversive drag tradition, his Dotty Primrose perf is the best kind of playmate for Quinton’s scary Florence Wexler. No wonder the aliens love these dames.