By PAM HARBAUGH
LOUISVILLE, KY — When the curtain rose on “I Promised Myself to Live Faster,” I felt like Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company had collided with San Francisco’s outrageous “Beach Blanket Babylon.”
A co-production of Actors Theatre of Louisville and Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company, “Faster” is a gay fantasia reaching throughout the universe. In it, a lonely gay man is abducted by three intergalactic travelers to find the Holy Gay Flame. He is thwarted in his quest by an evil emperor who has more headdresses than a Las Vegas showgirl.Directed with verve by Dan Rothenberg, the cast and crazed stage props are flamboyantly delicious. Standouts in this talented cast are Jennifer Kidwell is terrific as drag queenly bartender. Dito van Reigersberg makes a sensational drag queen chanteuse and an imperious emperor.
Really…if the people who run Beach Blanket Babylon ever run out of ideas (ha ha ha) then they need to contact this group.
The second show was in the round theater known as the Bingham Theatre — a very sweet space equipped with an amazing array of spotlights, trap doors, and acoustic capabilities. The show was Erin Courtney’s “I Will Be Gone,” a ghost story so well directed by Kip Fagan that you jumped in your seat…more than once.Unlike the simple set he created for “The Roommate,” to suggest the ghost town of Bodie, Nevada, scenic designer Andrew Boyce drew on both minimalism and a remarkable scenic unit which was a miniature of the town built upon a massive platform taking up nearly the entire stage area. This unit would be lowered into place when action moved to the ghost town itself.
Paul Toben’s lighting design also startled with ominous mood and sudden flashes of ghostly apparitions. Sound designer Daniel Kluger also stirred this scary pot with some terror-filled sound effects.
The theatrical day ended with three Ten-Minute Plays:
“Rules of Comedy” by Patricia Cotter and directed by John Rooney was a very satisfying little theatrical souffle concerning a young woman who wants to find her humor again and the young stand up comedian who she hires to teach her. Actors Emily Stout and Conrad Schott charmed as the two characters.
“So Unnatural a Level” by Gary Winter and directed by Les Waters was a wild theatrical ride, including big sound and lighting design and one wild stage prop inhabited by an actor. Set in an insurance office, you are brought quite suddenly into a cataclysmic event which changes the world and sets the insurance agents into a tizzy. It all leaves one timid secretary wishing she could just disappear.
“Joshua Consumed an Unfortunate Pear” by Steve Yockey and directed by Meredith McDonough used fantastical notions to explore issues of immortality, love and sacrifice. In it, a man consumed immortality pears and invites his wife to eat one as well. There is a Greek chorus, mayhem and blood galore but you laugh through it all.