’70s show of wine, women and songby Chuck Graham on Apr. 23, 2009, under Calendar Plus
Citizen Staff Writer
Are you ready for the 1970s? This time around, The Gaslight Theatre gang has given their time machine a little extra tug to get past the 1950s and into the TV wonderland of “Harlie’s Angels, or Clues But No Cigar!”
The 1970s were a decade of shameless excess and fashion extremes that held no fear of bad taste. We’ve got the videotape to prove it. The research staff at the Gaslight, ever relentless in its search for the truth, has dug up period details that will inspire a nostalgic smile from anyone still able to remember that psychedelic decade.
Samantha, Jessie and Kimberly are the three drop-dead beautiful angels who work for Harlie’s detective agency. In the finest feminist traditions of that period, they can outshoot, outfight and outsmart any guy. Fortunately for the rest of us, these angels aim only their talents at the bad persons.
Since all Gaslight shows are double cast, the roles become more important than the actors. At the performance I attended, Sarah Vanek, Deborah Klingenfus and Tarreyn Van Slyke play the angels Samantha, Jessie and Kimberly, respectively.
The unseen Harlie is heard onstage, but his voice gets no credit line in the program. The closest we get is Beasley (Joe Cooper), the dapper dude who works for Harlie and gives the girls – oops, women – their assignments. Beasley sort of watches over them, too, but just in an administrative way. Not in a sexist “I’ll protect you, baby” way that would be sooo wrong.
This was the Seventies, after all, when the pounding bass beat of disco had pushed those airhead folk singers in their Birkenstocks and blue jeans right out of the pop culture spotlight. Anybody who wanted to save the whales would have to do it after hours on their own time.
Stepping up to be a hero is Flavio Suave (Todd Thompson), the international disco superstar who never met a female he couldn’t charm out of her entire wardrobe. That is, until he met Harlie’s Angels.
OK . . . well . . . as longtime fans of the Gaslight are fully aware, a meaningful plot is never expected. So don’t expect the story line to make much sense, either.
There are four Soviet-like characters – the head of the Slobovian Secret Services (David Orley), a member of the Slobovian Central Intelligence Committee (Nancy LaViola), plus the two wild and crazy guys, Serge Piroshki (Mike Yarema) and Yerge Piroshki (Charlie Hall) – who are convinced the power that rules the world of disco can rule the world.
They will come to America, dominate the disco scene and rise to world domination. But first, they must put themselves into the Discosizer. Wearing drab Soviet-style uniforms they step into the whirring, smoking, flashing device. More stage effects stimulate the Discosizer and . . . viola!
The government Slobovians step out transformed into devilish disco dilettantes, one in bright orange pants, another in deep purple. That wild and crazy commissar even gets to wear a red velvet jacket and flaunt his massive blond afro. Within seconds they are all singing about a “Brick House” or something.
So the Slobovians’ plan to destroy the totally awesome new discotheque that Flavio in his ankle-length orange fur coat plans to open. Harlie’s Angels, always fluffing up their fabulous hair, are assigned to protect Flavio and stop the Slobovians.
You can be sure, bright colors in vigorously clashing styles will prevail.
The Gaslight’s aftershow olio is called “Hurray for Hollywood,” but the absolute best part is a lengthy salute to “The Wizard of Oz.” This 15-minute segment alone is practically worth the price of admission. Alas, the players present only the first half of the story – getting Dorothy and her three pals into the Emerald City. We get no flying monkeys, dissolving wicked witch or little man behind the curtain.
Everyone should demand Gaslight management put up the money to produce the rest of the story (as the late Paul Harvey would say). Then they can start working on a Gaslight version of “Gone With The Wind.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Gaslight Theatre presents “Harlie’s Angels or Clues But No Cigar!”
When: various times Tuesdays through Sundays through June 13
Where: The Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway
Price: $17.95 adults, $15.95 seniors, $7.95 ages 12 and younger
Info: 886-9428, www.thegaslighttheatre.com