(This post brought to you from Paris where the Queen Geek is currently on vacation. Don’t say I never got you anything.)
presented by Vaquero Playground
By John J King
Directed by Barlow Adamson
The Compilation Album (featuring Queen Geek, Kitty Drexel on All’s Well That Ends Another Day)
(Boston) Review by Craig Idlebrook
When I was in college, a friend of mine decided the best birthday gift for his jock roommate would be a striptease, and he would not be dissuaded. As the birthday party was winding down, my friend burst into the party wearing nothing but terrible lingerie and he proceeded to slowly strip. His roommate laughed as the joke began, but he grew increasingly alarmed, realizing that my friend might go the Full Monty. The jock began to plead with my friend not to go all the way (this was Indiana in the nineties, after all), but with a big build-up, my friend took it all off anyway. It has become the most memorable striptease in my (cough) semi-extensive memory.
From Denmark with Love, Vaquero Playground’s bawdy mashup of the James Bond franchise and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, will be memorable for much the same reason. It’s not that this play’s frantically crass humor crosses any final frontier of decency, although it definitely tap-dances on the bounds of taste. No, what makes this play memorable is the hacker mentality that it brings to comedy; it never plays it safe in its presentation. It feels as if scriptwriter John J. King and director Barlow Adamson concocted and constructed this play from an all-night giggle-fest, and now they are putting it on for friends. If you happen to get the humor, too, all the better, but they’re not going to stop and explain it to you.
This devil-may-care ethos is the play’s greatest strength, and its greatest weakness. It’s a mash-up in every true sense of the word, not just of plot, but of every comic device under the sun. It ensures that while the play is never boring, it sometimes strays into incomprehensible, especially when the accents get thick. (For some reason, the play needs every European accent imaginable, including not one, but two Scottish dialects.) Also, the writer and director refuse to hold their most shocking cards to last, instead blowing their wad early with some of the bawdiest jokes and then hitting those jokes again and again, gleefully.
And it’s this gleefulness, and the brevity of the script, that makes the play ultimately fun to watch. The cast never takes itself seriously and it is not above whoring itself to the audience for laughs (that’s a compliment). There’s such a renegade vibe to this production that the cast doesn’t even seem to revere its own script, let alone give a shit about honoring the ridiculous source material. (Hamlet, come on, just kill the guy, okay?) King and the production team show they have the chops to make a slick production, as evidenced by the spot-on multi-media opening credits, but they consciously decided this isn’t that kind of a party. It’s that kind of vibe that will make this play memorable for me, and could make future King scripts downright dangerous to the world of comedy.
(A closing note: On opening night of this show, King fulfills a bet, in honor of a near-sellout crowd, to do an aftershow speech in his all-togethers. This is not for the faint of heart.)