Rocky Horror Show
Embarrassing as it is, I must confess. Prior to the opening night of Brüka Theatre’s The Rocky Horror Show, I had neither seen the play, the film, nor the bizarre carnival that accompanies public showings of both.
Therefore, be warned. I am writing from the perspective of a recently deflowered Rocky Horror “virgin.”
Entering the theater, my husband and I were warmly welcomed by a group of strangely dressed individuals. An ebullient woman wearing a bustier sold us a “goody bag,” containing such treats as a flashlight, surgical mask, lollipop and party hat. Suffice to say we were intrigued. It was like being invited into a secret society.
Sadly, the feeling of belongingness soon dissipated. The show started with a lively musical number. The singing was excellent, and the costumes out of this world, but due to a combination of microphone problems and the fact that I was seated right next to the music speaker, I could hardly understand a word.
I quickly learned about another Rocky Horror tradition—the audience is expected to talk back to the actors. A sarcastic and often raunchy running commentary is as much a part of the show as the actual script. The theater company started the back-talking, and as other audience members joined in, it became apparent that there is a universal counter-narrative which Rocky Horror veterans all know. It sounded like such fun that I couldn’t help but pity myself. I wished the goody bag contained an audience participation script, but no such luck.The story itself is so bizarre that it’s no wonder the play and film have attained cult status. A wholesome engaged couple, Brad (Simon Marx) and Janet (Amy Ginder), have automotive trouble on a dark and stormy night and seek refuge in a foreboding castle. The ensuing chain of events is a series of bad horror and science-fiction movie clichés, with a transgender porno theme.
Adam Whitney is amazing as Frank ‘N’ Furter, the flamboyant transvestite and mad scientist who inhabits the castle. He is loads of fun to watch and looks alarmingly shapely in lingerie.
There is not a single bad performance in this show. Every actor to cross the stage is energetic and entertaining. Brüka is a haven for insanely talented people, and they come out in full force for The Rocky Horror Show. I did find myself frustrated by the sound quality, as lines of dialogue and entire songs were completely lost on me.
With the exception of the sound issues (which may have been opening night difficulties), The Rocky Horror Show has all the ingredients for greatness—a talented cast, a lot of liveliness and costumes dripping with fabulousness. However, the show falls short of its potential by failing to clarify the rules of audience participation. “Goody bags” were distributed, but without instructions on when to use the props. A few audience members engaged in responsive dialogue, but many of us did not know the lines. We were invited to do the “Time Warp” dance, but the music stopped just as a couple of brave souls stood up.
It is no mean feat, performing a show with its own subculture while trying to be accessible to newcomers. I admire Brüka for taking it on. But all in all, my first Rocky Horror experience felt like hearing a friend tell a "you had to be there" story. It was interesting, kind of fun, but all the way through I felt I was missing something.