By Dawnell Smith
Anchorage Daily News
The gonzo “Mid-winter’s Campfest” at Mad Myrna's should qualify as an extreme sport. The performers do back-to-back plays while baring skin and teeth — and probably get blisters in all the wrong places.
But if any genre of theater can pull an audience through the third hour, vamped-up comedy can, especially when oozing with slapstick and word play, fashion and lesbian vampires, drag queens and independent film makers who find themselves thrust into the realm of porn against their will.
Well, sort of.
Whatever happens to those film-making heroes, the three plays at Myrna’s hammered the funny bone last Saturday, despite a few slow spots and several stiff cocktails. Though the threesome of campy performances came and went last weekend, two will appear again this weekend while episodes Christian Heppinstall’s ongoing live soap opera “Midnight Soapscum: Porn!” continue into June.
But, first, let’s talk about the two plays written by Charles Busch, a New York actor, writer and drag queen who scribed the scripts in the mid-1980s. Busch’s “Sleeping Beauty or Coma,” is a retelling of the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” with the lingo, fashion and drug culture of 1960s England.
In this short play, Sarah Alvarez simply shines as Enid Wetwhistle, the vapid temp secretary thrust into supermodel stardom. Her spot-on timing and comic relish usher the audience through the betrayals, desires and redemptions of a wannabe art photographer and two fashion designers.
Director Christian Heppinstall clearly has a handle on comedy here, from wry wit to sight gags.
The second piece by Busch, also about an hour long, involves a succubus who drinks the blood of virgins and happens to create an immortal nemesis when one of her victims survives. Appropriately enough, “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” begins in Sodom and ends in Las Vegas, incorporating big egos and even bigger transgressions along the way.
Here, Missy Williams rattles the stage with swagger in her role as a young resourceful teenager who transforms into a vengeful, bloodsucking show woman in Vegas.
Jodi Hughes-Clark plays the succubus with an overzealous swoon to Williams’ swagger, for the play is less about vampires and lesbians than show business and relationships.
Both scripts show off the fluidity and comic gifts of several local actors and, as a bonus, segued nicely with Heppinstall’s “Midnight Soapscum.”
This first installment ran a bit long and drifted into insider jokes or other tangents. Mostly, it centered on the story of Rex and Basil (Stuart Matthews and DJ Rotach) as they tried to cling to their notion of fine art while strong-armed into participating in Shakespearean porn films by a Russian porn boss (a droll Heppinstall in drag).
Rotach does a particularly endearing turn as Basil, the wannabe film director who can’t pay his bills anymore than he can restrain his lust for love hunks. He looks deliciously torn by desires as he bites his nails, managing to appear disdainful and interested at the same time.
In a way, Matthews has a tough job playing Rex, the virile straight guy who wants to be the next Brad Pitt. He plays it with an overly stiff bravado, like he did as Brad in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but with many installments to come, he might get a chance to flush out the character.
So far, the production poses questions like: Will Rex and Basil get together at last? How does Heppinstall walk in those shoes? And, on stage and in film, what isn’t porn?
Check it out yourself in the weeks to come, but remember, anything can happen (and probably will) in “Midnight Soapscum.” You just might get hooked.
"Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" and "Sleeping Beauty or Coma" continue at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10 at Mad Myrna’s, 530 E. Fifth Avenue. Admission is $16 general, $12 students/seniors/military (276-9762 or at the door, if they them).
The next installments of "Midnight Soapscum: Porn!" continue on Saturdays until June 16 at 9 or 10 p.m. Check the Web site for the exact times each week. A roll of the dice determines the ticket price, from $2 to $12, and you can call ahead for reservations