Presented by The Hasty Pudding Club
Written by Daniel S. Milaschewski,, Jacob D. Rienstra, and A.J. Unitas
Music composed by Dylan MarcAurele
Feb. 6 – March 6, 2016
12 Holyoke Street
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Cambridge, MA) HPT168: That 1770’s Show is like a Ru Paul’s Drag Race production of “A Day in the Life on Plimouth Plantation” if the budget were slashed and the performers given a strict diet of cafeteria food. It’s good ole’ drag satire in which Massachusetts institutions are the butt of the jokes. It’s hilarious if that’s your thing. If it’s not: the show’s still funny but you won’t enjoy yourself as much as everyone else.
This year’s Hasty Pudding Theatrical continues in the long tradition of addressing everything that’s right and wrong with politics and society through cheap humor. It is 1775 in Boston and the revolutionary war is in its nascent stages. The poors are pissed off at the English for taxing them up the butt (nothing changes) and aren’t going to take it anymore. A crew of freedom fighters including Mae Flower, Betsy Gloss, Seymour Beavers, Ahab Bitualliar, and Benjamin Dranklin gather together to put an end to Governor Bucky Hampalace’s overzealous taxation policies. Little do they know that the real threat is from Anne Heritance, a Shirley Temple wannabe on bath salts, and vicious sea monster, Codzilla. Together, our heroes take on the uppity evil-doers, teach right from wrong and celebrate our nation’s history through song and dance.
What the boys of That 1770’s Show lack in technique they make up for with enthusiasm. From the moment the curtain rises, we are given energy for days. Betsy Gloss has a great Diana Ross moment and Mae Flower delivers a sassy Mae West tribute. Codzilla’s “Fish Out of Water” is so punny you may stab the person sitting next to you. It all ends with a celebratory rifle-burlesque a la Busby Berkeley. It’s an impressive dance number expressing freedoms that the nation’s founders never intended we have.
To be perfectly clear: this production is not high art with intends to educate. The acting is wooden; the singing frequently sounds like barroom screaming. What That 1770’s Show is, is a raucous vaudeville production with sex jokes galore, Harvard and Boston pot shots, and puns out your ears from pretty boys dressed in glitzy dresses. The book and lyric writing are bro-humor hilarious. The compositions are very clever and singable. But be warned, the only social value HTP168 contributes is through comedic relief (and apparently philanthropic donations, info on which isn’t easily found on their website). It’s lots of manly leg and no substance. I loved it! But my loving it doesn’t make it “art.” If art is what you want, this is not the show for your virgin eyes.
An aside because I can: Theatre enthusiasts may have heard buzz in local news of Hasty Puddings’ enduring decision not to cast women in its shows. The HPT website includes a thoughtful missive regarding this decision. To sum up, HPT doesn’t include women in its theatricals because it wants to challenge perceptions of masculinity. This would be great if HPT succeeded in doing this. Rather, the perceived point of guys dressing in lady’s garb is to incite laughter by viewing the performers through the lens of traditional conventions of manhood, not by confronting these traditions. The only real challenge the audience faces is stomaching the makeup design. If men in drag are funny then women in drag are funny. What’s more, trans-people of all ages, colors, creeds, etc. die every day because they aren’t viewed as human. I could go on but I won’t. It’s time to Title IX up, boys.