As a former actor, friend of many a SF-playwright, and all-around-theater-lover, I often worry that I’m too harsh a critic when it comes to amateur theater. However, I fear I might give too glowing a review to Guerrilla Rep and Beards Beards Beards’ The Oddman Family Christwanzaakuh Spectacular because IT IS A MUSICAL and I’ve been known to have frighteningly low standards when it comes to that genre.
Where: The Exit Stage Left , 156 Eddy at Mason
When: Thursdays-Saturdays through Dec 18, 8 pm.
Tickets: $20, buy online by phone (800-838-3006).
Let’s put it this way: if our city Supes were putting together a production of High School Musical 3, I’d probably love it. I’m an unabashed sucker for singing and dancing, so as soon as the play opened with the two protagonists singing and swinging their hips, I was hooked.
But, all jokes aside, the singers – and songs – are really, really good, and the plot is delightfully dark humored, kind of like “Annie meets Sweeney Todd” (A phrase uttered onstage at one point during the play, which I have to steal because it’s such a perfect description).
The plot follows siblings Jonny and La’ree, directed by their white-trash and alternately grotesque and lovable parents (Mom wears a giant fake Poinsettia pinned to her chest and encourages her daughter to act like a prostitute; Dad may have a coke addiction), as they vie for a trip to Hollywood with their variety show, which they’re sure is bound to win as it features songs for Christmas, Hanukkah (they’re all good, but this song was my favorite), Kwanzaa, and even Winter Solstice!
Things go awry when the director (who may not even be the “real” director) is thrown in the middle of a bizarre-yet-continuously-funny love triangle, and don’t settle down until the finale, upon which we finally learn why the Oddman Family adopted 50 kids, and why so many of them are missing body parts (the band, which is also great, is comprised of amputees).
All types of people, whether Jewish, black, gay, Asian, et al. are repeatedly made fun of. I have no issues with politically incorrect humor if it’s funny (and in good spirits, of course) – but the constant “let’s make fun of people who are different” shtick did get a little old.
The last scene also drags on slightly too long, but these are small critiques in what was otherwise a very enjoyable and worthwhile evening.
Full disclosure: I went straight to karaoke after the show.