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A CurtainUp Review
By Julia Furay
Carrie, the original Stephen King novel, may be about a telekinetic high school outcast capable of blood-spattered, uncontrollable rage. But it is a surprisingly moving tragedy within a horror novel, chock full of teen angst and dark emotions.
Given the story's campy elements, it comes as no surprise that the downtown company,Theatre Couture has applied its penchant for drag to their adaptation now at P.S. 122.
Erik Jackson's adaptation as directed by Josh Rosenzweig isn't a tragedy at all but a celebration. This Carrie clearly revels in its status as a combination of horror movie classic and legendary musical theatre flop. It's jokey, it's bloody, and it's having a lot of fun with itself.
How so? To begin with, Carrie herself is played in drag by Keith Levy (whose female alter ego, a cabaret performer, is named Sherry Vine). This brings a whole new symbolism to the idea of Carrie as outcast. Levy's performance is actually fairly restrained, however, with only the occasional nod to his gender. His Carrie is certainly strange and freakish, but he doesn't play the role for laughs alone. His Carrie, Levy is so gawky and awkward that we understand why she alienates everyone around her.
The rest of the cast is less understated. In fact, they're gleefully over the top: Marnye Young as good girl and narrator Sue Snell. . . affable Matt Wilkas as heartthrob Tommy Ross. . . snarling bad girl Christine (Kathy Searle). . . David Ilku as the drooling principal Mr. Morton. This ensemble never fails to vamp it up and seize every opportunity for comedic silliness. They're aided in this respect by Jackson's hammy script, which owes a clear debt to parodies like the movie Airplane.
Jackson's adaptation is structurally sound, with few dull moments, but is most notable for its many in jokes, period references, and sly winks to Carrie's cultural status. For example, as Margaret White (Kate Goehring) prays with her daughter Carrie, she begins with "Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret!" Rosenzweig's direction is equally and cheerfully self aware. The low budget physical production also gives off a proudly quirky air with sets by Tobin Ost and special effects by puppeteer Basil Twist — which, true to his name, include such twists as flying Tupperware, soaring scissors and fabric, a profusely bleeding puppet pig, and of course, tinsel galore, and of course, the bucket of blood that sends Carrie into her psychotic spree. It may be low on budget, but the production is certainly high on imagination.
With this Carrie is so busy having fun with itself the darker, more unsettling elements of the piece are entirely ignored (or alternatively, turned into jokes). Goehring as the fanatical Margaret, for example, is frenetic, but never remotely menacing. Danielle Skraastad's Miss Gardner is strident and no-nonsense, but evokes very little actual sympathy. Levy's is the only performance with hesitancy and weight, and even he eventually succumbs to the jokiness toward the end. All this adds up to strictly lightweight entertainment with very little evidence of anything deeper. Just a few more scary moments, or tender ones, would have made the ending (Sue's defiant salute to freaks and warning about their unknown power) a little more powerful. But with such famous source material and outrageous story elements, who can blame Rosenzweig and Theatre Couture for emphasizing the gore and glitter instead of the grit?
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide