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The 1980s were such magical times, with pop fads to spare and frightening, untrustworthy, Medusa-like woman creatures grabbing for and holding power in the workplace like never before. Ancient Greece was also probably magical. Playwrights Alana McNair and Kate Wilkinson prove these are two great tastes that taste great together in Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy, the inaugural production of Who Wants Cake? now returning to celebrate a full run at the Ringwald four years later. Directed by and starring Joe Bailey, the current offering skirts the line between straight-faced parody and cheeky, winking camp that keeps the laughs rolling.

Most people know the basic story of the bunny-boiler film upon which the play is based: a man has a brief fling that comes back to haunt him in the most nefarious of ways. The play doesn’t bother with movie character names, instead identifying the players as we know them best: suave protagonist Michael Douglas (Jon Ager), cloying wife Anne Archer (Melissa Beckwith), child most gently described as homely and slow Ellen Hamilton Latzen (Tim Kay), and indomitable home-wrecking force of nature Glenn Close (Bailey). Also contributing to the proceedings is a Greek chorus of four (Suzan M. Jacokes, Richard Payton, Joe Plambeck, and Dyan Bailey) whose heavy-handed intoning damns the man who steps out on his wife and family. Skipping ahead to the most memorable scenes and crucial plot points, the play smartly flies by at eighty minutes, just enough to satisfy without wearying of its premise. From the meteoric career rise of the protagonist that cannot go unpunished to the bloody bathtub showdown, the play works as both a rough-and-tumble spoof of the film and as a goof on the implausible, severe cautionary tales of Greek tragedy.

As the idyllic onlookers and peripheral victims of Michael’s indiscretion, Beckwith and Kay play the perfect family perfectly — charming and loyal and sweet and light, laid on so thick that a viewer could just scream. Ager’s turn as Michael has a comparatively straight role in relation to the madness around him, but his entitled attitudes and refusal to admit culpability make the most of what he’s given. Of course, the center of the production is career woman Glenn, the supremely vengeful psycho, and Bailey leaves no crazy stone unturned, doing facial and vocal calisthenics to fluctuate between alluring and wronged and in control and conniving and innocent and, finally, completely unhinged. The costume design features a wealth of uncanny homages (in particular Ellen’s hideous OshKosh B’Gosh combo and Glenn’s signature white), with great 80s references peppered throughout. Although the characters’ motivations are never taken lightly in this melodrama, the actors find ample opportunity to acknowledge the proceedings at hand, commenting on Ellen’s boyishness or reacting to an echoed refrain; the dual approach at times has a sloppy feel, but it’s forgivable for the sheer fun evident in these performances.

The chorus treats Glenn Close as some kind of banshee, unleashed by the gods as a just punishment for a philanderer, through repeated superior moralizing; its prophetic-sounding platitudes find the greatest effect in Jacokes’s absolute stone-faced severity, although Payton’s and Bailey’s sassy and devilishly perverse interpretations are also well received. Additionally, the quartet plays a handful of background characters when necessary; moves scant, representative furniture on Michael Reeves’s scant red-tinged set; makes telephones and other props appear and disappear to suit the story; and adds a visual element between scenes with phenomenally cheesy dances (choreographed by Molly Zaleski to an on-the-nose 80s soundtrack by designer Plambeck). The dancing comes to a head in an intentionally amateurish crazy-pants dream ballet, utterly sold by Plambeck’s migrating wig and plastered Kewpie expression.

Despite the constant proselytizing about the sanctity of home and family, the atmosphere of the production is kept fast and light. Bailey’s direction doesn’t linger on any one moment or scene, ensuring that the audience doesn’t stop to scrutinize what is at heart a silly, trashy venture. The lighting (also by Bailey) keeps things moving with pep, only stalling during a coital montage whose setup/payoff ratio is a little skewed. Overall, however, this is a production knowledgeable and skilled enough to understand how to get laughs out of the material and wastes no time getting them, in a show enjoyable for viewers and performers alike. This Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy is one more exhibit in a wealth of evidence that, although not its sole accomplishment, Who Wants Cake? is unparalleled in the realm of camp.


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