×

Oklahomo!

This show based on a seemingly foolproof comic idea -- the production of a gay version of "Oklahoma!" -- has the trademark Justin Tanner lunacy and irreverence. Tanner knows the non-Equity small theater scene and gets off a goodly share of zingers, but the tempo and tone of "Oklahomo!" have an air of desperation and the story becomes increasingly fragmented and piecemeal.

With:
Arthur - Brian Newkirk Melissa - Maile Flanagan Vance - Billy Wright Janice Owens - Ellen Ratner Patrick - Brendan Broms Darren - Justin Tanner Kitty Haber - Mary Scheer Clay - Tad Coughenour

This show based on a seemingly foolproof comic idea — the production of a gay version of “Oklahoma!” — has the trademark Justin Tanner lunacy and irreverence. Tanner, author of cult hits “Pot Mom” and “Zombie Attack!,” knows the non-Equity small theater scene and gets off a goodly share of zingers, but the tempo and tone of “Oklahomo!” have an air of desperation and the story becomes increasingly fragmented and piecemeal.

Arthur (Brian Newkirk), the producer, star and writer of “Oklahomo!” in Tanner’s script, is introduced as a nervous wreck, frantic about the future of the show and the fact that his temperamental ex-partner of 10 years, Darren (Tanner), is also the production’s director.

Darren, echoing Jack Buchanan’s pretentious helmer in “The Bandwagon,” justifies Arthur’s worst fears, expressing embarrassment at participating in “this level of theater” and instantly tyrannizing his actors. These include Janice (Ellen Ratner), a lesbian TV star; Patrick (Brendan Broms), the one straight member of the cast, who demands, “No tongues”; and Vance (Billy Wright), who proudly announces his measurements and claims to be semi-erect at all times.

Also on hand during the turbulent rehearsals are Kitty (Mary Scheer), a coke-addicted “second-rate hunt-and-peck accompanist,” and Clay (Tad Coughenour), Darren’s youthful assistant. Attempting to coordinate the chaos is stage manager Melissa (Maile Flanagan). Despite Flanagan’s comedic talent, her antigay born-again Christian character is an improbably written bore.

Tanner’s portrayal is a cross between critical bully and whining baby, and he does an amusing Actors Studio takeoff when commenting, “This pen has meaning,” or referring to a “Streetcar” production featuring Blanche Dubois as a bulimic. But his florid, fuming hysteria doesn’t grow, and director Lisa James permits his frenzied rages to become repetitive.

Also volatile to a preposterous point is Scheer’s Kitty. Hilarious in her opening segments, her character has nowhere to go and she self-destructs. Kitty’s tragedy in the middle of act two is such a contrived, melodramatic twist that the play never bounces back from it.

Musically, the production is short on numbers, so that the few there are (“Oh, What a Beautiful Penis,” “The Bottom and the Top Man Should Be Friends”) feel uncertainly integrated and don’t make enough of an impression.

Broms, portraying the one straight performer in the cast, is wedged inside a role with unrealized potential. He isn’t utilized for crucial story effect, as was the one straight protagonist from Mart Crowley’s “Boys in the Band”; he simply registers generic shock at the gay goings-on and never moves beyond these obvious responses.

Amid the chaos, Newkirk’s Arthur has much of the sweetness of the Corky St. Clair character in “Waiting for Guffman.” Even while directing a simulated rape, Newkirk retains ongoing rapport with the audience.

This makes the downbeat finish doubly disappointing, especially since it feels scattered and inconclusive, an ending the writer wrestled to the ground and still couldn’t figure out.

Oklahomo!

Third Stage; 50 seats; $18 top

Production: A Birdman Prods. presentation of a play in two acts by Justin Tanner. Directed by Lisa James.

Crew: Sets, James Henriksen; lighting, B. Creeley; sound, 3 G's; choreography, Agnes de Ville; production stage manager, Ed Asswell. Opened July 15, 2005. Reviewed July 16. Runs through Aug. 20. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Cast: Arthur - Brian Newkirk Melissa - Maile Flanagan Vance - Billy Wright Janice Owens - Ellen Ratner Patrick - Brendan Broms Darren - Justin Tanner Kitty Haber - Mary Scheer Clay - Tad Coughenour

More Scene

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson Idris Elba

    Dwayne Johnson: Idris Elba Nixed 'Black James Bond' Joke in 'Hobbs & Shaw'

    In the “Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw,” the movie’s villain Brixton, played by Idris Elba, spreads his arms out wide and declares “I’m black Superman.” It turns out that might not have been the original line. Dwayne Johnson tells Variety that Elba was first asked to proclaim he’s “black James Bond,” but the [...]

  • Matteo BocelliAmerican Icon Awards Gala, Inside,

    Top Music Manager Calls Out American Icon Awards for Failing to Pay Talent

    The centuries-old adage no good deed goes unpunished is a common refrain for star music manager Scott Rodger of late. Rodger, who represents Paul McCartney and Andrea Bocelli at Maverick, says his client Matteo Bocelli, the son of the opera star, was stiffed out of promised expense reimbursement by the American Icon Awards. The event, [...]

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk – and success — hanging [...]

  • Dwayne Wade holds up the legend

    Dwyane Wade, Megan Rapinoe Win Big at 2019 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards

    The 2019 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards was filled with incredible athletes, inspiring moments and — of course — a massive amount of slime. “I love the kids. I love the slime. I loved the games. I love seeing celebrities and athletes like become kids again. And it’s like my favorite thing,” Michael Strahan told [...]

  • Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani

    Dave Bautista Talks Representation in Hollywood and Defying Stereotypes with 'Stuber'

    Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani make an unlikely duo in “Stuber,” an R-rated comedy about a police officer and his Uber driver. But the two connected over the rare chance to star in the film as actors of Asian descent (Baustia is half-Filipino and Nanjiani is Pakistani). “I’ve been stereotyped for a couple different reasons [...]

  • Skin

    How Jamie Bell Transformed Into a Neo-Nazi for 'Skin'

    Anyone who still associates British actor Jamie Bell with his breakout role as a young boy who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer will quickly forget all about “Billy Elliot” after seeing “Skin,” which screened at ArcLight Hollywood on Thursday night. “I was shocked,” the film’s writer-director, Guy Nattiv, told Variety of his leading man’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content