Saturday, March 5, 2016

"Three's Company LIVE!"

Three’s Company LIVE!
Adapted by D’Arcy Drollinger

The Cast of Three's Company LIVE!
I must make two confessions up front before beginning this review. 

1) The two or three times I happened to turn on “Three’s Company” during its 1977-1984 run as a sitcom hit (in the top ten of all TV shows for seven of those years), I never made it through an entire show of what I then considered stupid situations, terrible puns, and over-the-top acting.

2) Any spoof D’Arcy Drollinger creates (and stars in), I (and an ever-growing San Francisco flock of fans) tend to love from beginning to end -- especially when full of the required stupid situations, terrible puns, and over-the-top acting.

Having cleared my conscious, let me assure the reader that D’Arcy Drollinger’s gender-bending, farcical Three Company LIVE! requires no prior knowledge of the original series still to be a laugh a minute ... no, a dozen laughs a minute.  Imagine the most bizarre of Carol Burnett skits, the most ridiculous situations Lucy and Ethel would find themselves, and a whole lot of Looney Tunes cartoon antics mixed in, and you can get a flavor for what is happening on this stage.  Add the fact that drag queens and a drag king are uproariously playing most of the key parts along with a guy who is so overly and narcissistically macho that he can barely make it across the stage walking in some combination of bowlegged cowboy and beach bum stud without the muscles.   Presented as if being filmed in front of a live audience, the cast hilariously talk in exaggerated mouthing of words and tone of voice to the invisible cameras before them and take every possible chance to frame-freeze together their expressions in order to emphasize a corny line and to milk every laugh possible from the adoring audience, which they do.  Once again as was recently done with “Star Trek,” Oasis and D’Arcy along with a great cast and production team have joined forces to create a riotous lampoon of a TV legendary series that, as they say, could only have been done in this way in San Francisco.

For anyone like myself who is unfamiliar with the original “Three’s Company,” let me review the set up.  Passed out in a bathtub at a drunken party, an aspiring chef looking for a place to live, Jack Tritter, somehow comes across two female roommates, the accomplished Janet Wood and the not-so-smart and very blonde Chrissy Snow, searching for a third.  The match is a sure one except that in the late 1970s and in their particular apartment complex, two single women living with a single man was a big no-no, especially for their snoopy manager, Stanley Roper.  Desperate on all counts to make this work, the three come up with a scheme that Jack is gay (remember, this is 1978 ... pretty ballsy for a sitcom at the time), which is fine with Mr. Roper (especially since he now gets to ridicule the “pansy” on an ongoing basis).  The saving grace for the three is his wife, Helen, who takes a liking to them and totally sees through their scheme.

Beyond that, not much is needed because plots of any episode are not really all that important, including the two presented at the Oasis.  What is key is that there will be some mix-up that looks dire in consequences (like a cute puppy showing up that Mr. Roper will not allow on threat of their eviction) or some conflict, misunderstanding, or self-made challenge among the roomies (like a bet that food-gauging Chrissy can go without food longer than sex-craved Jack can go without ... uh, sex).  But to the thinnest of plot lines can be added by the likes of this cast dozens of sexually-based, double entendres; wildly exaggerated body movements and facial expressions; and even spontaneous changes to script or delivery that leave fellow actors barely able to contain themselves (something that happened several times the night I was there).  And the result is fun, fun, fun.

Heklinka, Adam Roy & D'Arcy Drollinger
Along with directing all the frolics of this crazy bunch, D’Arcy Drollinger also plays the blonde boom-boom Chrissy, who never walks but always bounces with knowing smiles to the ‘camera’ across the room, all the while her over-sized bosoms ricochet up and down uncontrollably.  San Francisco favorite and drag queen star extraordinaire, Heklinka (Stefan Grygelko) plays a Maude-like Janet – gigantically over-sized for her mini-skirts and with a deep, just-on-the-verge-of-cynical voice.  Each brings much hilarity in well-executed parodies of Joyce DeWitt and Susan Summers. the stars originating their parts. 

Both Chrissy and Janet far outstrip in height and stature the diminutive Jack (which is good for him since he ends up time and again with happy face and outstretch tongue in Chrissy’s boobs).  Adam Roy is a mixture of Popeye and Dick Van Dyke in his awkward and silly strutting and his clumsy stumbles over a sofa to the floor, springing back up immediately only to fall again. 

Matthew Martin & Sara Moore
When the knock comes and the door opens with Helen Roper appearing in loud-colored moo-moo, custom jewelry bordering on hippy, and red Afro, the audience goes absolutely wild.  Part of the reaction must be the former fans’ love of the big-hearted neighbor from TV Land, but much could be the fact that another SF-fave in the drag-queen world, Matthew Martin, is playing the part.  With a deadpan voice, constant snide remarks about her husband’s lack of sexual prowess, and a ho-hum view at the world, Helen clearly is a crowd favorite as the evening progresses.  Her under-sized, squatty husband, Stanley, is brilliantly portrayed by Sara Moore who brings a Red-Skeleton, rubbery face that molds into scores of crazy expressions with eyes that squint into slits and open into moons.  This Stanley drips with sleaze in his voyeurism and smacks with silliness as he bumbles around on stage.

Rounding out the cast is Laurie Bushman who plays a sexy playmate for Jack in the first act, a used car salesman in the second, and the lip-synching star of several TV ads in commercial pauses throughout whose jingles those of a certain age seemed to recall with glee.

Much of the hilarity of the show comes from costumes designed by Amie Sarazan that range from Helen’s ever-changing moo-moo to Chrissy’s ever-skimpier Barbie Doll nighties to Jack’s ever-tighter pants and shirts.  Becky Motorlodge literally tops off Ms. Sarazan’s creations with wigs that drag queens in the audience must be eyeing with envy.  Sarah Phykitt’s set of the apartment is ‘70s schlocky and totally functional for the changing scenes among various rooms.  Finally, the entire evening is set in good stead with an opening video created by Richard Neveu that places the action in Santa Monica, introduces all the characters, and gives everyone a nostalgic taste of the opening song (Joe Raposo’s “Three’s Company, Too”).

Bottom-line, whether fan of Janet, Chrissy, and Jack or not, now is the time to rush to buy tickets for a fun-filled, laugh-producing evening at the Oasis for Three’s Company’s Live!

Rating: 4 E

Three’s Company’s Live! continues through March 19, 2016 at Oasis, 298 Eleventh Street (at Folsom) in San Francisco.  Tickets are available at (21 and older, only).  Next up on the D’Arcy Drollinger creations:  Sex and the City LIVE! set for a Pride Month run, June 2 – July 2, 2016.

Photos by Gareth Gooch

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