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Stage

Monster's Ball

Baltimore's newest theater company makes an energetic debut

richard goldberg (center) gives himself over to absolute pleasure.

By Anna Ditkoff | Posted 10/28/2009

The Rocky Horror Show

By Richard O'Brien

Factory Edge Theatre Works through Nov. 7. For more info, go to factoryedgetheatreworks.net.

It's easy to forget that The Rocky Horror Show was a stage play before it was a picture show. Originally performed in London in 1973, the play was Richard O'Brien's homage to B-movies. Two years later, it debuted as the iconic movie starring Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a not-so-sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.

It's fitting that Factory Edge Theatre Works kicks off its existence with this twisted cult musical. According to producer Benjamin Greene, the company started as a Mobtown Players offshoot by a group of musical lovers. They don't love all musicals; they prefer the dark and quirky ones-they originally wanted to do Repo! The Genetic Opera but couldn't get the rights-and Rocky Horror fits that paradigm.

The production starts with Trixie (a very engaging Eileen Del Valle) explaining the rules. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is famous for its audience participation-people dress like the characters, sing along, yell things out, and even throw things (you can buy $3 bags of approved props; free if you come in costume and purchase your tickets online)-all of which is encouraged, though Trixie points out that these are real people playing the parts, not images on a screen. She then made all the first-timers come down front and drew a lipstick "V" on their hands rather than the customary foreheads.

If you, too, are a Rocky Horror virgin, here's the deal. A young couple-Brad (Drew Gaver) and Janet (Erika Bankerd)-get a flat near the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Richard Goldberg) and his band of misfits. The doctor, a cross-dressing scientist, has made a man, the titular Rocky (Ken Garriques), a muscular blonde Adonis. A lot of singing, dancing, and bed hopping ensues as Brad and Janet get sucked into the Frank-N-Furter's hedonistic world.

From the moment you enter Mobtown's Meadow Mill space, two things are clear: 1) Factory Edge has style. 2) It's still figuring out the practical bits. The style was apparent in the glossy programs and the ticket, which was easily the prettiest ticket I've received at a community theater production. However-and, mind you, this was opening night for a fledgling company-the hallway leading from the door of the complex to the theater was dark, making the space appear closed, the play started late because the microphones had just arrived and needed to be checked, and the playwright's name was spelled wrong on the front of the program.

The high-style-plus-logistical-lows continued into the production. The costumes were gorgeous, from the usherette costume to Frank-N-Furter's various get-ups-especially the show-stopping white dress. And the actors' energy and enthusiasm were contagious. The narrator, director Lance Bankerd, has amazing presence, and Carlos Del Valle's Riff-Raff was sinister and entertaining. Bankerd and Gaver get off to a slow start, but come alive as the show progresses. And the standout is Goldberg's Frank-N-Furter. He commands every scene as the anthropomorphized id who wants pleasure and wants it now.

It's a big show to do on the teeny-tiny Mobtown stage and the show ends up feeling shoehorned in. Some of the microphones weren't working; in fact, it's odd that mics were even necessary in such a small space, but the live band totally drowned out performers with fritzing mics. The singer's strengths varied widely, and plenty of performers missed a note here and there. But the biggest problem was the dancing, which looked painfully tentative, as if the actors weren't sure what the moves were or if they were embarrassing themselves. The choreography wasn't great but if they had committed to the steps, it would have looked far better.

Here's the thing, though: It's the motherfucking Rocky Horror Show. People who love this play aren't going to give a crap if the mics aren't ever fixed. They know the thing by heart anyway. Even at the sparsely attended premiere, there were people shouting call backs, throwing props, and a couple that drove some distance just to see this production. I have a feeling that most of diehards will be at the midnight shows, so you may want to go then for the full experience. It shows savvy that Factory Edge Theatre chose to announce its presence with this production, making instant fans. When it gets the kinks worked out, it will likely be a force to reckon with.

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