Big Trouble in Little Hazzard
nytheatre.com review by Eric Winick
August 15, 2004
Parody’s a funny thing. Sometimes. When the material being lampooned is familiar, laughs just seem to come with the territory. They’re built in, per se, like a gag reflex, or a Pavlovian response. In the case of Big Trouble In Little Hazzard, parody is served up in generous portions, and, if audience response is any indication (as it often is), the show’s affectionate send-up of TV staple The Dukes Of Hazzard strikes chords. The question, then: with so many yuks predetermined, are any actually earned?
As penned by Peter Katona and Greg Derelian, and directed by Will Frears, Big Trouble wants it all ways—cardboard cars careen about the cramped stage, characters in laughable wigs and stuffed jeans swank down the aisles, breasts heaving, butts extended. This is Hazzard County, after all, where plots run thin and innuendo runs rampant. It’s not all that far from the original, which made few attempts to hide its inherent silliness: a coupla good ‘ol boys, never meanin’ no harm, takin’ on a gaggle of corrupt lawmen hell-bent on bringin’ ‘em to justice, once and for all. Oh, and some T & A.
Have I mentioned that Big Trouble is a parody? Therein lies the rub. Presenting a take-off on what was, essentially, a parody itself takes skill, and in this sense, Big Trouble is only half-successful. Authors Katona and Derelian (who play Bo and Luke, respectively) seem to have decided from the outset that they’ve got hilarity on their hands, and Frears gives them the production they expect, an hour-long parade of postmodern winking and milking—'80s references, sexual hijinks to satisfy both hetero (Boss Hogg’s mistaken perception that Daisy’s new “jugs” are filled with moonshine) and homo (the love seems to be a bit more than brotherly), and, to drive the PC point home, an African-American character with a thing for big butts.
As Sheriff Coltrane, Remy Auberjonois practically walks off with it all, suffocating himself in a consonant-spewing apoplexy. Under Frears’ frenetic direction, the rest of the cast has little to do but mug, and only a few rise above the level of simple impersonation. That said, they are an energetic and committed bunch, and they are ably supported by the clever design work of Robin Vest and Ilona Somogyi. One only wishes—and may the Lord strike me down for saying so—they’d all taken things a bit more seriously.