June 2, 2011
Theater review: 'The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill' at T.U. Studios
As he demonstrated in "The Eight," a series of monologues in which Santa's reindeer decry the jolly old elf's lecherous proclivities, playwright Jeff Goode has a knack for the outrageous.
In "The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill," a world premiere presented by SkyPilot Theatre at T.U. Studios, Goode's proven sense of naughtiness is very much on display. However, instead of keeping his tongue wedged firmly in his cheek, Goode too often allows it to hang out, droolingly.
The action, set in Kentucky at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, transpires entirely on a rustic porch, the gathering place for an array of local zanies. The home's owner, Capt. Avner Pillicock (James Sharpe), is supposedly a conductor on the Underground Railroad. However, as we later learn, Pillicock keeps his slave, Alabaster McGill (Arden Haywood), chained in a cellar.
Cruel confinement doesn't seem to have bothered Alabaster overmuch. In fact, he and his captor are head over heels in love. Oddly, once the two announce they are getting hitched, the townsmen -- over-the-top characters all -- seem more upset over the duo's race than their gender.
Brett Fleisher and Matt Valle are impressively goofy as randy youths who adjourn to the woodshed for orgiastic spanking sessions, but other actors are still grappling for lines well into the run. Some big laughs are scored, but running gags often run right into the ground. Director Eric Curtis Johnson's pointlessly busy blocking -- such as having Pillicock sweep the porch like an OCD sufferer off his meds -- fails to focus this blurry comedy.
-- F. Kathleen Foley
"The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill," T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 19. $20. (800) 838-3006. www.skypilottheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.