"Scarrie"

Reviewed by Carl A. Rossi

Several weeks ago I wrote, “Twice I’ve attended ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE at the Stoneham Theatre where I saw not a single twenty-something or younger enjoying the lady and her music….” I may have discovered where this particular audience can be found these next few weekends: if they aren’t cheering on SpeakEasy’s BATBOY: THE MUSICAL, they just might be enjoying themselves hugely at SCARRIE, Ryan Landry’s camp revision of Steven King’s CARRIE, which has arrived just in time for Halloween.

"Scarrie" (4 October - 9 November)
THE GOLD DUST ORPHANS
Machine at the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts
1254 Boylston Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 265-6222 Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Scarrie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi


"SCARRIE"

by Ryan Landry
based on the novel “Carrie” by Stephen King
and the film “Carrie” by Brian DePalma

directed by James P. Byrne

Penny Champayne … Scarrie
Ryan Landry … Mother
P. J. McWhiskers … Chris
Afrodite … Sue

with Charles Fineran, James P. Byrne and the Gold Dust Orphans

Several weeks ago I wrote, “Twice I’ve attended ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE at the Stoneham Theatre where I saw not a single twenty-something or younger enjoying the lady and her music….” I may have discovered where this particular audience can be found these next few weekends: if they aren’t cheering on SpeakEasy’s BATBOY: THE MUSICAL, they just might be enjoying themselves hugely at SCARRIE, Ryan Landry’s camp revision of Steven King’s CARRIE, which has arrived just in time for Halloween.

Unlike his recent adaptation of ROSEMARY’S BABY, Mr. Landry has stayed quite faithful to Mr. King’s story --- a teenage wallflower, mocked by her peers and repressed by her fanatical mother, discovers she has telekinetic powers and uses them to wreak vengeance on all when she is publicly humiliated at the school prom --- and he turns CARRIE inside out just enough in the name of tacky, trashy fun while retaining its underlying poignancy (for all their roughhouse, Mr. Landry & Co. are a sentimental bunch). When I attended Opening Night, I was fascinated watching how the Orphans and their audience went hand in glove: these Aristophanic, gender-bending clowns playing to college students who delight in dumb/gross-out humor, and the numerous young women laughed as heartily as the young men (they all seemed quite at ease being in the basement of the Ramrod, too). Personally, I will always prefer the Orphans’ production of CAMILLE --- their comic masterpiece, and one of the year’s best --- but Mr. Landry & Co. aren’t aiming for masterpieces, folks; they’re aiming to make you laugh --- and they will, once you’ve checked your inhibitions at the door. (Students: bring along your I.D., just in case.)

Penny Champayne --- who I hadn’t seen in previous productions --- is a touching Scarrie; when she entered, looking down and tightly clutching her schoolbooks to her budding chest, I sighed with relief: Mr. Landry’s latest creation was not going to be yet another coke-sniffing slut but, instead, the still, burning center which her co-zanies spin around like planets out of hilarious control. Indeed, Ms. Chapayne plays Scarrie with such whole-hearted sincerity that at times I couldn’t help feeling she was enacting her own personal drama --- Mr. King’s themes of parental abuse and peer persecution must hit home on both sides of the footlights --- but rather than drag everything down into the maudlin, Ms. Champayne shyly and sweetly adds a layer of humanity to the evening’s horseplay, making this the richest Orphan show I’ve seen yet.

If a Star means the triumph of Personality over Technique, then Ryan Landry is definitely a Star --- the mere fact that he continues to be greeted with applause upon his first entrance is proof that he is an established light in Boston’s theatrical firmament. (If you want to get a sense of what an evening of Sarah Bernhardt must have been like, go no further.) Wearing a flaming red fright wig --- no, haystack --- and dressed in witch’s black, Mr. Landry compliments Ms. Champayne magnificently with his flamboyant, loony Mother, poised between religious ecstasy and a drug-induced high (their house boasts a stained-glass crucifix with Dubya filling in for Jesus). Mr. Landry’s final scene where, his head rolling around on his neck like a marble on a plate, he relates how Scarrie came into the world is a priceless send-up of both the film adaptation and purple-prose writing in general. If anyone can outdo him in outrageousness, it’s P. J. McWhiskers, here as teen-bitch Chris. Mr. McWhiskers is such a ham-fisted comedien(ne) that after awhile all you can do is sit back and enjoy being pummeled (thanks to him, you’ll learn all you need to know about camel toes). Afrodite makes a pretty, baby-doll Sue (she resembles a Coppertone Bernadette Peters); Charles Fineran swells his gallery of grotesques as a killer-dyke nun, probing at student bodies and sniffing his fingers, and director James P. Byrne is delightful as a lascivious, cross-dressing priest.

Anyone who wishes to start their own theatre and has limited funds would be wise to attend an Orphan show and observe how the Messrs. Landry and Byrne continue to overcome all obstacles with a solid sense of stagecraft, a lot of schtick and good ol’ imagination --- I believe they could stage all of WAR AND PEACE on Machine’s tiny stage if they’ve a mind to. Come see how they pull off the lyrical shower scene from the DePalma film --- it’s funny, bawdy and beautiful, all at once --- or the wonderfully silly dream sequence where Scarrie swoons over Prince Charming taking her to the prom; and, of course, the all-stops-out holocaust followed by Mother’s telekinetic death.

Will SCARRIE’s young audience return to see the Orphan’s version of Dicken’s CHRISTMAS CAROL, with Joan Crawford filling in for Ebeneezer Scrooge? And will they bring along their parents and siblings? Wouldn’t that be a hoot ­ Mr. Landry & Company unintentionally producing a family show for the holidays!

And, with Christmas coming, please remember these Orphans. They truly rely on the kindness of strangers.

"Scarrie" (4 October---9 November)
THE GOLD DUST ORPHANS
Machine at the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts
1254 Boylston Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 265-6222

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |