Sunday, October 27, 2019

A Wild and an Untamed Thing

The Rocky Horror Show

D'Arcy Drollinger and Joey Feldman Photo: Nick Otto

Book and Music by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Alex Rodriguez
Ray of Light Theatre
Victoria Theater, San Francisco

Until November 2, 2019

Reviewed by Christine Okon

What “A Christmas Carol” is to Christmas, "The Rocky Horror Show" is to Halloween. It’s time to do the “Time Warp” again.

For the fifth and final year, Ray of Light Theatre turns the venerable old Victoria Theatre into the freaky funhouse of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who’s “just a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania.” First produced in 1973, "The Rocky Horror Show" was far ahead of its time in celebrating sexual freedom and gender fluidity in the framework of a silly plot full of old scifi and horror movie tropes, like aliens, a mad scientist, and a creepy house on a dark and stormy night. Most people learned the back-and-forth “liturgy” from the ubiquitous midnight showings of the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” which were full of fun cosplay and talking back to the screen.

Caleb Haven Draper and Courtney Merrell Photo: Nick Otto

Ray of Light Theatre always seems to get the best local talent in everything from acting to costume design, and this production of "The Rocky Horror Show" is no different. As the newly engaged and vacuously “normal” Brad and Janet, Caleb Haven Draper and Courtney Merrell work well off each other’s straight and naive demeanor in “There’s a Light,” and it is fun to watch each of these characters fall into the wild swirl of the night where much is learned. Unfortunately, the inadequate miking made it hard to discern a lot of the lyrics, but hopefully that problem has been fixed.

As Frank-N-Furter’s assistants Riff Raff and Magenta, Randy O’Hara and Jocelyn Pickett are delightfully sleazy and funny in their quirky physicality, as when Magenta’s butt cheek serves as the doorbell. As the outrageous plot devolves even more, John Flaw shines big as both the rock and roll rebel-without-a-brain Eddie and the wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott who later reveals a frilly secret underneath his lap blanket. J. Conrad Frank brings a controlled but hilarious Dame Edna aura to the Narrator who can return audience volleys as fast as they are dealt in a time-honored interactive tradition of the play.

But the absolute star is D’Arcy Drollinger as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, towering above all in a burst of glitter, swagger, seductiveness and humor as he welcomes Brad and Janet into his home and later reveals what he’s been working on in his lab. Not only is Drollinger a sublime drag diva with a deep voice and exquisite moves, he’s a master of comedic timing and acting.

D'Arcy Drollinger and Ensemble Photo: Nick Otto

Speaking of glitter, the costumes designed by Maggie Whitaker are a fantasia of gold lame, leather, sparkles, and chiffon. In shiny, clingy boy shorts, Joseph Feldman as Rocky scampers like a simian trickster let loose in sexual frolic, adding to the delightful chaos.

Scenic design by Peet Cooke makes good use of the small space, such as incorporating a turntable stage to maximize action or using the actors themselves as props. John Bernard’s lighting design intensifies the moods that range from confusion to ecstasy. The live music coordinated by musical director Steven Bolinger is never less than expert. Alex Rodriguez pulls it all together with keen directing and choreography.

Admittedly, people who have never seen or heard "The Rocky Horror Show" may have trouble following the details or lyrics of the plot. For those who know all the words to the outrageous liturgy of Rocky Horror Show, it's not too late to become a "creature of the night."

"The Rocky Horror Show" by Richard O’Brien, directed by Alex Rodriguez, Ray of Light Theatre, Victoria Theater, San Francisco through November 2, 2019.  Info:

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Kevin Achas (Phantom)Sara Altier (Phantom)
Melinda Campero (Columbia)
Caleb Haven Draper (Brad Majors)
D’Arcy Drollinger (Frank-N-Furter)
Emily Dwyer (Usherette)
Joseph Feldmann (Rocky)
John Flaw (Dr. Scott/Eddie)
J. Conrad Frank (Narrator)
Carlos Guerrero (Phantom)
Melissa Martinez (Phantom)
James Mayagoitia (Phantom)
Courtney Merrell (Janet Weiss)
Spenser Morris (Phantom)
Randy O’Hara (Riff Raff)
Jocelyn Pickett (Magenta)
Caroline Shen (Phantom)

"God Bless Lili St.Cyr"


John Bernard (Lighting Designer)
Steven Bolinger (Music Director)
Connie Caranza (Assistant Stage Manager)
Peet Cocke (Set Designer)
Jerry Girard (Sound Designer)
Madeline Lambie (Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer)
Anton Hedman (Sound Engineer)
Maggie Whitaker (Costume Designer)

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