Devil Boys from Beyond
nytheatre.com review by Andrew Rothkin
November 12, 2010
What's funnier than a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist investigating reports of flying saucers in the mysterious swamplands of Lizard Lick, Florida—the hickest hick-town in all of America? Not much! Unless, perhaps, you cast a man in drag, add a boozing ex-husband, a nemesis/rival reporter, and Everett Quinton, to boot! Mix in clever one-liners, a candy-colored design, and enough boy-toy eye-candy to fill a giant's Halloween sack, and you've got one hell of a show!
So it is with Devil Boys from Beyond, Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott's wickedly funny send-up of '50s sci-fi flicks, currently invading New World Stages after a successful run in the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival.
You might want see it twice. I missed some lines, here and there, as I was still belly-laughing from some previous ones.
Kenneth Elliot does what he does best, staging an all-out camp fest which is hilarious from start to finish. He helms a magnificent cast—all of whom add to the hysteria.
While the entire ensemble is strong, from where I sat, the true stars of the night are Paul Pecorino (as Mattie Van Buren, the fearless, whatever-it-takes reporter), Chris Dell'armo (as Lucinda Marsh, the man-stealing, story-stealing bitch), and the incomparable Everett Quinton (as Florence Wexler, the brassiest, white-trashiest housewife since Rosanne – just brassier and a whole lot white-trashier!).
I had the pleasure of seeing Quinton many years ago as part of Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatre Company—in which he was a delightful fixture—and he singlehandedly changed my view of camp; the form is not merely good, irreverent fun and laughs, but in the hands of an extraordinary talent, it can be uplifted to a true art form. Quinton raised my awareness (and expectations) many years ago as to what camp could be, and he raised them again Friday night—finding delightful mannerisms and speech patterns to not only bring this old Southern hag to side-splitting hilarity, but to also, somehow, make her real and relatable. Likewise, Dell'armo nails Lucinda, finding the perfect balance between a true inner life and outrageous exaggeration. Like Quinton's Florence, Dell'armo's Lucinda is a true flesh-and-blood person—just over-the-top enough to make her a joy to watch. Finally, Pecorino is perfection. His every gesture, his every stance, his every expression is so telling, theatricalized just enough to fit the world of the play (and make me bust a gut), but grounded in a thinking, feeling, breathing human being. Indeed, a third of my belly laughs came from Pecorino's expressions alone.
Andy Halliday is also amusing as the doting Dotty Primrose. While as experienced as the other drag stars of the night, his performance is simply not as refined: neither as specific, clear, or full with his outward characterization, nor as rich and believable with a "real" person underneath. Still—Halliday gets the last laugh, as he earned a plethora of them from the crowd.
As for the male characters, Robert Berliner does an admirable job as Gregory Graham, a man caught between his love of Mattie, his lust for Lucinda, and his desperate need for the bottle. I thought he started off too timidly, and was initially no match for the effervescent Pecorino, but as he relaxed, his character emerged, and I bit by bit began to see why the two dames were fighting for him, beyond merely a handsome face. Peter Cormican is fun and fine as the head of The Daily Bugle. Jeff Riberdy and Jacques Mitchell are spot-on as the hunky aliens from space. Their acting is very effective—but from the audible gasps around me, it was clear there were some in the audience who would have paid top dollar just to see these two with their shirts off, acting talent (or not) aside.
The look and sound of the show are wonderful, including some kitschy, clever surprises. I especially enjoyed Gail Baldoni's fabulous and oh-so-clever costumes, which are beautifully matched with Gerard Kelly's hair /wig design.
Go see Devil Boys from Beyond while you can! While it would not surprise me in the least if it went on to a longer commercial run, if you like well-done comedy—and/or shirtless men from outer space—get to New World Stages by December 30th.