A Musical Comedy About Charles Manson: Too Soon, or Finally?

"I'm going to hell." That's how cutting edge theater maker Matthew Posey wraps up his announcement about his next show at his Ochre House studio. It's called Mean and it's a musical comedy about the first meeting between creepy 1960s hippie-cult leader Charlie Manson and his accomplice, Tex Watson, who would go on to murder people on Charlie's orders.

Posey is writing, directing and starring as Watson in the show, which, like all Ochre House productions, will be performed by members of Posey's own weird little family of actors, nicknamed "The Ochre House Boys." Mitchell Parrack stars as Charlie. Anastasia Munoz plays Squeaky Fromme (the member of Charlie's bunch who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford). In the show, the three meet for the first time in a dive bar in Twentynine Palms, California. Joining them are a western singer (Justin Locklear) and two messengers from God (Dante Martinez, Elizabeth Evans).

"Mean is an exploration of human nature," Posey says in his description of the show. "In particular, how the brutal actions of a single man can affect the consciousness of this country, and how sometimes such savagery is necessary to bring about change. It begs the question, `Would the world be better with or without Manson?'"

Manson, now 77, has been in a California penitentiary for more than 40 years for his part in the brutal murders in 1969 of actress Sharon Tate, heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, screenwriter Woyciech Frykowski and three others in what became known as the Tate-LaBianca killings. The cases were detailed in the best seller Helter Skelter by prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi. The book served as research material for Posey's show.

Original music for Mean is by Justin Locklear, Trey Pendergrass and Lyle Hathaway, with lyrics by Parrack. Also in the cast are Kevin Grammer, Delilah Buitron, Trenton Stephenson and Cyndee Rivera.

"It's madness and mayhem served on a musical platter," says Posey.

In every new production at Ochre House over the past year, Posey and his players have pushed against limits of taste, material and size. He did a smart, spectacular send-up of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and followed it with a highly acclaimed biographical play (with music and nudity) about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

If anyone can make us laugh in spite of ourselves at the awful deeds of the Manson family, it'll be Matthew Posey.

Mean opens February 17 and plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through March 3. Tickets are $15 at the door. Reservations, call 214-826-6273. Ochre House is at 825 Exposition Avenue by Fair Park.

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