A fun night of theater with Boys and Girls Club’s Triple Threat players
Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the film The Goonies for the first time until after I’d seen the Boys and Girls Clubs of the North Valley’s stage adaptation (script “freely adapted” by Richard Oliver) at the Blue Room Theatre on Friday (June 3). But even before catching up with the classic 1985 adventure film, I was impressed by what was a well-balanced, funny and charmingly sentimental production that was billed as the swan song of director Samantha Shaner, coordinator of the club’s Triple Threat theater arts program.
And now, I can also say that the young players did justice to Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Chris Columbus’ original story about the adventures of a tight-knit gang of youthful misfits who follow a treasure map to save their parents and homes from financial devastation.
Local band Stereosparks (husband and wife duo Marcus and Storey Anderson) set a playful tone by performing Cyndi Lauper’s original theme song, “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.” Backing them up was set designer Amber Miller’s gorgeous backdrop of a rocky, whitecap-flecked Oregon coastline overhung by swirling clouds blending into crashing waves.
Then the characters entered the minimalist stage. Diminutive Mikey (Chloe Starkey), with asthma inhaler dangling from her back pocket, declared, “I’m bored,” setting the wheels in motion for what would become an epic adventure, especially for a bunch of kids.
A trip to the forbidden attic finds Mikey—along with fellow Goonies Brand (Alexis Devalera), Mouth (Cecelia Mahar), Chunk (Tatiana Lizarraga) and Data (Destiny Lee)—discovering trunks full of exotic items including a Spanish doubloon and a treasure map. Many of the character names are chosen to reveal their traits, and the young actors inhabited their roles with convincing emotional and comic conviction.
As the ever-hungry Chunk, Lizarraga embodied the high energy and questing drive of a child’s insatiable curiosity. As Mouth, Mahar portrayed the ability of the young mind to explain, or make excuses for, all aspects and acts of childlike rationality. Lee’s Data displayed inventiveness and an ability to repurpose common objects into clever solutions. And as the eldest character, Brand, Devalera showed the dawning of adulthood with concerns about failing the driver’s license test and dealing with budding romance.
Despite, or perhaps even because of, a lot of gender reversal in this adaptation (the main characters in the film are mostly young boys and the actors portraying them on stage were girls), the overall message of the story holds true. When the kids follow the treasure map to an abandoned restaurant on the coast and encounter the criminal Fratelli family—led by the beatnikesque Mama Fratelli (Isabel Aranza)—then flee into the depths of the subterranean treasure cave below, gender doesn’t matter. Ingenuity and courage are not gender-specific, and neither are wit and the ability to crack wise in the face of danger.
The story also plays with the Southern Gothic tradition of a malformed and perhaps mad family member chained up in the basement. In The Goonies, that character is the imprisoned offspring of Mama Fratelli, Sloth (Harrison Holden), who eventually is discovered and befriended by Chunk.
As the action of the play descended deeper, both literally and metaphorically, the characters retained their youthful innocence and goofiness. So, when the treasure trove was finally discovered and revealed, the bad guys vanquished—and hilariously arrested by tiny officers played by Penelope Stausbaugh and Mackinzie Butz—and the “Goon Docks” saved, the rush of good feeling in the audience celebrated both the corniness of the happy ending and the very genuine accomplishment of the young actors and their dramaturgical mentor. The prolonged cheers and standing ovation of the opening night audience were well-deserved for a swan song that I’m sure many wish was still to come.