by Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott
Directed by Kennerth Elliott
Starring Everett Quinton
New World Stages
Official Website

Reviewed by David Spencer

I had to wonder why, even as a critic who, in the normal course of things, tries to see as many significant productions per season as he can, I continually subject myself to gay-camp-drag fare that satirizes popular culture. It may be a legitimate genre, but I am not among its limited target audience (my orientation quite aside, I haven’t the taste or sensibility for it either) and such evenings almost always leave me feeling unamused, impatient, bored and feeling excluded. And I have to keep reminding myself that there was an extravagant gay-drag revue in 1996 called When Pigs Fly that was both aggressively drag and militantly gay, yet had such generosity of spirit that it transcended its niche—and because of that one revue, I keep going to these things in the hope that another one, similarly inclusive might be delivered out there. Alas, Charles Busch’s The Divine Sister, which opened earlier this season (and continues still), is run-of-the-mill standard—but at least it is standard, with a certain requisite campy panache; however the new Fringe import to off-Broadway (at New World Stages) Devil Boys from Beyond is even worse than usual. A parody of 1950s political-paranoia inspired “invaders from space” black and white B movies, it defaults to all the usual tricks, including male actors playing variations of iconic female tropes (this one features, among others, the tough reporter and the feisty farm woman) and swapping in bitchy lines (spiked by sexual innuendo and profanity) in place of film cliché, as if the shock value of our heroine calling a rival reporter the C-word constituted actual wit. (Though I suppose what’s really happening is the interpolation of commentary on the silliness of the drama. But rtat's a hat on top of a hat. The reason that Mystery Science Theatre 2000 worked so well was that the barbs were hurled at the real thing by the crazy characters watching it.) Nor does the drearily tawdry Devil Boys have the stylish savvy of the stage adaptation of the musical Xanadu (which I also didn’t like, but which at least understood that the source movie provided enough fodder for parody without adding coarse puerility to the mix).

    Devil Boys, by Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott (who also directs) additionally follows a loose, almost unintelligible story structure and features scene after scene of actors yelling at each other in the most excessive, winky-winky, louder-means-funnier, nuance-free school of (I use the word advisedly) comedy. I tried, but I just couldn’t make it through this one and bailed at the 2/3 mark. My much wiser companion (lucky she, also sans the obligations of a critic) caught the warning signs early and bailed after fifteen minutes. I hasten to add, there was a faction of the audience laughing with consistent regularity, and the laughs were solid enough to indicate that the creative team, despite anything I may assert, understands their particular market quite well But something about the effort expended to pander to it (for pandering it is) strikes me as so sad…

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