in on the act
The San Francisco Mime Troupe, contrary to its name, produces original musical comedies that use pop culture paradigms to vehicle cutting-edge political satire. (The Troupe's founder, R.G. Davis, was a mime, but they've moved on in the succeeding 40 years.) This year's offering, 1600 Transylvania Avenue, overlays familiar vampire tropes with the ascendancy of that corporate cheerleader George W. Bush. Positing corporations--which are legally "people" and yet immortal, unlike the rest of us--as the Undead, 1600 gives us a bloodsucking Bush (Amos Glick) and Cheney (Ed Holmes). Both performers are very funny guys, but their uncanny resemblance to the bloodsuckers currently running the country may make it hard for some audience members to "see the humor." Hip music by Jason Sherbundy (who leads the zippy jazz trio) and lyrics by Bruce Barthol help the medicine go down.
As the romantic lead, Conrad Cimarra gets a lot of mileage out of his malleable mug, bug eyes and newt-like digits. This once hard-hitting journalist turned White House flunky flubs his assignment to destroy an enemy of the corporation with whom he falls in love. As his inamorata, Velina Brown (brilliant as the mayor in the 1999 City for Sale) once again displays a combination of talents that would make her a star on any stage in its right mind. Graceful as a colt, with a singing voice both sweet and supple, Brown's sublime comic timing assures her wholesome charm never turns maudlin. She looks great in a skirt suit by costumer Keiko Shimosato that somehow recalls vampirism's 19th-century Romantic origins.
As the "psycho-corporate Nosferatu-ologist" Professor Van Helsing, Victor Toman demonstrates the art of ensemble playing. He's always where he needs to be without calling attention to himself. Newcomer Anastasia Coon holds her own as Brown's sidekick. After she has vampirism thrust upon her, Coon exhibits behaviors appropriate to an Eastern European stag party. Too bad she's not allowed to tap the lesbian vampire vein. Ah, well. The script by director Michael Gene Sullivan and Ellen Callas still has plenty of bite. My favorite line is Van Helsing's "The strength of the corporate bloodsucker is that people don't believe in him."
Erin Blackwell just can't help being critical at InOnTheAct@hotmail.com