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WILDER AND WILDER

"Born to be Wilder"
by Paul Galotta
XS magazine

On the same weekend that the American musical's past and present (Mame and Kiss of the Spider Woman, respectively) were packing 'em in locally, the genre's future bowed quietly to a half-empty house on Hollywood Boulevard. Florida Playwrights' Theatre's production of Wilder and Wilder won't win any awards. It probably won't alter life on the planet as we know it, either. But it is monumental, nonetheless: A local company has finally figured out where the future of the musical is. And if it ain't pretty, at least you can laugh at it. Contemporary musicals are all but impossible toproduce on a limited scale. Can anyonewho hasn't inhaled a pint of MD 20/20 visualize Les MisÚrables, Phantom, or Miss Saigon given a credible performance by a community theater? And while the past should be respected, there will always be local productions of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, and yeah, Webber and Rice.

Wilder and Wilder is a brutally funny if somewhat clumsy production that earns big points. It's the epitome of edge theatre. It's entertaining. And it's least common denominator material at the same time. Wilder and Wilder is a what-if-Alice in Wonderland-was-written-by-Jim Varney-and-directed-by-Charles Busch fable. Alice (Rob de los Reyes) follows an in-line skating rabbit named Blanche (Paul Waxman) into a Warholesque version of Wonderland. It's a world inhabited by the likes of Maggie the Cheshire Cat (Lori Dolan), her husband Bricky [Ricardo] (Paul Thomas), a dominatrix Drag Queen of Hearts (Duncan Pflaster), and her strung-out addict sister, Queen Sugar (Shannon Emerick). As far as the plot... does it really matter? While the company apparently still subscribes to the louder/faster school of acting, it actually meashes well with Angela Thomas' frenetic direction. The nine-person cast all but aerobicizes for a manic two hours.

The premise is a clever one, but the writing is erratic. The humour is fairly pedestrian ("Twinkle, twinkle, belch and fart/ your two lips have pierced my heart") or recycled ("I said there's nothing like a good cup of coffee...and this is nothing like a good cup of coffee"). Oh, you'll laugh until you're incontinent, but deny it later. For a change, we have an ensemble cast that has no visibly weak links although a few redefine the meaning of the word "ham"). Pflaster (who also wrote the book and along with Irving Rabin, co-wrote the score) in particular makes a pretty fierce queen. Not too many guys can get away with high heels and 5 o'clock shadow simultaneously. There is a very significant cheese factor at work with this production, but in the end, it works. Besides, think of Sunset Boulevard. Art costs money these days. Wilder and Wilder probably won't even be a footnote in a theatrical history class 25 years from now. But in the interim, it's a reason to rejoice. Especially if you're not watching your cholesterol.