Uptown Players' Gilligan's Fire Island Is a Raunchy, Smart Two-Hour Tour
Cast away all doubts about Gilligan's Fire Island, the latest comedy bamboozlement (with bamboo) from playwright Jamie Morris, who hasn't met a classic TV sitcom he didn't want to turn into an R-rated, cray-cray gay romp. Uptown Players' laugh-till-you-wheeze production is awash with silliness on the Rose Room stage in Oak Lawn.
The original characters are there, plus a cute twink named Cody (Angel Velasco) who washes up on the beach after toppling overboard on his way to the Hamptons. Don't wince. That makes just as much sense as the original CBS show's premise about a cabin cruiser with two crew members and five passengers going astray at sea during a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.
Morris' ripping, raunchy script, tighter and smarter than his Designing Women and Facts of Life facelifts, assumes we know the 1960s TV show by heart. This version finds the seven stranded you-know-whats still living in their rustic huts and not having aged for the past half century (they were onto the healthy coconut diet way ahead of us). Their latest visitor affords them their last chance at getting off the island -- if Gilligan doesn't screw it up the way he did all the other shots at rescue.
Director B.J. Cleveland, a middle-aged imp who grew up here on a local TV kids-and-puppets show and hasn't stopped performing for a minute since, is the perfect choice for staging bawdy, broad, pop-culture-soaked comedy. Even without broads. In Gilligan's Fire Island, sexy Ginger and eternally perky Mary Ann are played by dudes (Michael Moore and Chad Peterson respectively, and with only a little respect for TV actresses Tina Louise and Dawn Wells). The rest of Cleveland's cast has studied the voices and quirks of the originals. Actor John Michael looks, talks and moves almost scarily like Bob Denver as Gilligan. Kevin Moore keeps the square posture and blank expressions of Russell Johnson's starchy Professor. Todd "Peaches" Richardson huffs and growls like Alan Hale Jr. as the Skipper. And Mikey Abrams, in dual roles as the millionaire couple, gets the lock-jawed Thurston and flighty Lovey Howell just right. Costumes and wigs by Suzi Cranford and Coy Covington boost the illusions.
Much of the comedy comes from Cody (Velasco, admirably confident in mere inches of swimwear) cluing in the others about life in 2015. Listen quick as he speed-riffs in modern tech-slang full of "hashtag" this and "Bye, Felicia" that. Grindr and Scruff, he gay-splains, "are just like ordering takeout." When Gilligan finds Cody's iPad, the group realizes how long they've been out of touch. "This is the future," says the Professor. "We missed it." Gilligan suspects the computer is evidence that Cody's an alien. "What planet is he from?" wonders Gilligan. "Maybe it's Uranus." (Rimshot appropriate.)
It's a fast two hours of Gilligan's Island reached via detour through RuPaul's Drag Race.
Gilligan's Fire Island continues through March 15 at The Rose Room, S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road, tickets $25, 219-2718 or uptownplayers.org.
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