Arts » Stage

Slay Belles

Late Night takes aim at the '80s with a drill team in drag.


After poking fun at such paragons of '60s trash as Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls, Late Night Theatre shoves its mitts into a slightly updated pillbox and extracts 1983 Drill Team Massacre. The troupe's latest production is filled with the music and trends of the period, and, however dated fingerless gloves and Madonna's "Lucky Star" seem now, they remain perfect oxymora -- the essential throwaways that compelled teenage girls and girly boys to line their wrists with rubber bracelets and take it, like the Late Night troupe, to the "Borderline."

An original script by Ron Megee and Phil blue owl Hooser (though Megee says, "We steal from everybody"), Massacre opens in 1999 in Leavenworth penitentiary, where Shari Winters (Megee) is doing time for her culpability in a series of slayings sixteen years prior at Beaverton High School. An interview with a television reporter evokes a two-hour flashback featuring the gang of misfits that made up the Beaverton drill team and its entourage, which include Madonna wannabe Lisa Lee Wicker (Gary Campbell) and her nerdy boyfriend, Blake (Shaun Roberts); pimply Def Leppard queen Tammi Boyle (Jon Piggy Cupit) and her boyfriend, Donald (Brian Adkins), who's five seconds from beauty school; goth priestess Cheyenne Frentall (David Reed) and her bong-toting boyfriend, Mick (Michael A. Smith, who also plays his twin, Nick); and countrified Valley Girl Angie Butall (DeDe Deville).

Rounding out the cast are Rick Campbell as Shari's jock boyfriend, Owen, and Ray Ettinger as the drill team sponsor, Mrs. Tingautumn, the latter harboring a dangerous penchant for nubile young ladies and miscellaneous weaponry. Labeled a musical by the LNT troupe, the show is more of a K-Tel Best of the '80s CD, breaking up its lengthy exposition with diligently choreographed drill team tryouts and, after the squad is complete, various competitions along the climb to a state title. Perhaps the beer aggressively pitched in the lobby (in official Late Night Theatre cups) is a chemical inducement to forget the thin plot. The first act begs the question: When and why does the killing start?

But as a production number performed to Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Night" kicks off the second act, the show finally achieves a kind of giddy vitality that makes LNT so amusing. David Reed's deliciously surly, death-obsessed Cheyenne finally has her day in the spotlight and brings Massacre to the bar Megee has set with the other shows in his repertoire. Hot on that number's heels is a funeral scene choreographed to Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" that is just as fine. (Like LNT's The Birds, which referenced lasting images of Hitchcock, this number references MTV just as slavishly.) The physical comedy Megee and Adkins bring to a "get rid of the body" scene is on a par with antics from a Best of Carol Burnett compilation crossed with John Waters.

Of course, an evening at Late Night always brings a couple of levels of crudity. One such instance in Massacre is slightly bothersome but excusable in light of a minuscule budget and the constraints of the space: There are scenes here in which the victims get up and walk offstage with no effort or resources to hide their awkward exits. (It does, though, adhere to the company's running joke: You're watching a silly play, not Chekhov.) Another is more welcome -- the constant filth and frippery that the company delights in spooning out. If you blink, you could easily miss the dildo microphone or the Sapphic shower scene (a nod to Carrie, which calls for a Late Night salute of its own). And the big gush of spittle emanating from between Shari's heavy metal teeth is either a wonderful accident or the best special effect using a body fluid one could hope for.

Deservedly credited with making this production perk are fight instructor Chad Scheppner (whose work could give the show a subtitle, Crouching Tigress, Hidden Drag Queen), makeup stylist Andy Chambers (each girl carries her own peculiar glow) and costumer Georgianna Londre (who later said that thrift stores are teeming with detritus of the '80s, and the range of wardrobe in Massacre bears this out). A lot of skill and passion has gone into 1983 Drill Team Massacre, and when it hits the jackpot, the show racks up luscious cherries across the board.

Add a comment