The five short pieces in Rising Sun Performance Company’s Twisted are more akin to long-form comedy sketches than to plays. That’s ok, though, because most of them are quite entertaining, and a few are genuinely hilarious. Two of them are funnier than anything I’ve seen on television in years. Justin Warner’s “Head Games” is an uproarious bit about King Herod bringing the nonchalant and seemingly ungrateful Salome the head of John the Baptist on a plate, as she has demanded. When he notices that her other favorite foods are specialty pastries like ladyfingers and “virgins’ nipples,” Herod realizes he has made a grave error. Chris Enright, who reminds me quite a bit of Will Ferrell, is side-splittingly funny as the hapless Herod, trying to keep Herodias and Salome from seeing what he’s brought home in a basket.
Similarly, Tom Kiesche’s “Nurturing Bond” is a clever sketch that also gives you a little to think about. A Tony Danza-ish Michael McManus plays a twenty-five year old man who is attached to his mother—literally. Joined by an eight-foot long umbilical cord, the severing of which would result in one of their deaths, the man, who is a bartender, and his mother (Melissa Ciesla) spend their lives doing everything together. He keeps her in the shadows as he disastrously tries to pick up women who soon retire to the ladies' room to vomit. He blurts out, incongruously, “I wanted to be an astronaut.” Dejected, he ponders a fateful decision.
Mark Harvey Levine’s “The Kiss” is a light, tender comedy about two young friends—(Jonathan Reed Wexler as Denis and Flor Bromley as Allison)—who just can’t seem to declare or come to terms with their affection for each other. Denis visits Allison to let her know that he is going on a date, but first he would like to practice his kissing skills on her to see if he is any good. What ensues is a cute, lighthearted and thorny romp through young adult longing.
Less successful, though still entertaining, are the two sketches which bookend Twisted. Matt Hanf’s “Teddy Knows Too Much” is about a young boy, jealous of his sister, who plots against his family and confides it all to his teddy bear. If you’re a fan of Family Guy you’ll instantly recognize Billy’s (Peter Aguero) debt to the character of Stewie. The script is frenetic and silly; Mr. Aguero has some comedic chops but only sometimes manages to salvage it.
Kitt Lavoie’s “Party Girl” falters because it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a comedy or drama; ultimately it’s neither. Phillip (Billy Fenderson), a young attorney, visits a strip club to celebrate his cousin’s bachelor party and realizes that his PhD-candidate girlfriend, Lorelei (Becky Sterling) is working as one of the strippers. The script is derivative—Tom Hanks’ early film Bachelor Party comes to mind—Phillip’s unseen father is even involved in the festivities.
Overall, Twisted is a solid comedic offering. A few of the cast members could fit in easily on Saturday Night Live. Despite the confines of their small black box space, the actors are often capable of pulling off some challenging physical comedy. Rising Sun Performance Company is a youthful, enthusiastic company and I look forward to seeing more from them, perhaps with some contributions from female playwrights next time.
If you’re looking for a summer evening of wacky comedy before dinner or drinks, you’ll be in the right place with Twisted.