With a title like Glitter and Spew, you'd think this three-act play would be highly energetic-ebullient, even-and dazzlingly polished. During a holiday entertainment season trimmed with endless renditions of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, the production is the Strand Theater Co.'s attempt to provide an alternative to December stage fodder that's become saccharine and trite. Disappointingly, it falls flat, and the barely one-hour performance deals in dullness rather than the glitz of glitter.
Touted as the world premiere of Alison Luterman's trio of satirical short plays workshopped during the Strand's Friends & Neighbors Festival 2011 in June, Glitter and Spew presents the same three actors as three very different characters in each of three completely disparate acts.
The first involves a half-drunk starlet who gets thrown in jail for a DUI (Does this ring a bell? Or perhaps many?) and swears she'll ruin her dedicated guard's life just like he's ruined hers. The Lohan-Hilton-Richie-esque celebrity's inability to bribe Officer Henry Dubois (a fairly low-energy Ryan Antony Nicotra) to release her sends the girl into a tailspin that leads Dubois to call for backup in dealing with "the princess."
Much to his disbelief (he swears he must be having a flashback as a symptom of his days boozing and toking) and to the star's surprise, a fairy godmother-like Marie Antoinette (Elise Edwards, whose fake French accent becomes grating after several minutes) appears, offering sips from her flask and games of dominoes-a welcome distraction for all of them. Antoinette's concern for the people who have died trying to protect her somehow slaps a semblance of rational values into the whiney celebrity, who-upon Antoinette's magical departure-bemoans her disregard for other people's lives by driving drunk.
While the dialogue, especially on the part of the starlet (played by Melissa O'Brien, the most enjoyable and versatile of the trio), is fast paced and pithy, the story has been told countless times before, and there's nothing standout or individual about this rendition.
During the short interim between the first two plays, in a move that's nothing short of bizarre, O'Brien strips down to her underwear on stage to change her costume while Nicotra strikes the set.
The second act features the two grown children of a politician's wife fielding questions from apparent journalists about their possibly gay father's toilet stall indiscretions. As the mother (Edwards) slowly unravels behind her dark glasses, the children downplay her eccentricity while making excuses for their father.
It's in this act that the name of the play comes to light: "They come for your head when they come," says the unstable wife. "The cloak it in glitter and spew …" In the end, the daughter (O'Brien) steals the limelight-coming slightly unhinged herself-while the son (Nicotra) is the only one of the three who manages to keep it together. The last line of the scene, delivered by the daughter to a journalist, drives home the message: "The question is not are you an animal, because believe me, you are, but what kind of animal are you?"
On-stage costume changes again fill the brief time between scenes, and the third act opens on a Target baby product aisle. An older woman (O'Brien) veritably launches herself at an exaggeratedly pregnant woman whom she identifies as "Dodecamom" (Edwards). As the mother-to-be shields herself from the continuous, shrill barrage of wry criticism and pessimism from the stranger she bumps into, Target employee Tom (Nicotra) comes to the rescue, only for the audience to learn that he is the gay sperm donor.
It turns out that Dodecamom's motivation for having 12 fertilized embryos implanted via IVF is her endless search to be something "special," and Tom delivers a speech about managing the "size" of one's dreams. O'Brien's spot-on obnoxious, relentless delivery of the older woman's unsolicited advice steals the scene, as does the unbelievably large prosthetic belly that Edwards wears.
It's through no fault of the acting that Glitter and Spew sputters; in fact, the actors are quite talented. It's the lackluster script and the clichéd messages about our society's obsession with celebrity and media that do the show in. In an attempt to be something different, Glitter and Spew fails to stand out.
Glitter and Spew runs Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 17 at the Strand Theater Co., 1823 N. Charles St. in Baltimore. Its next production, That Pretty Pretty; or, the Rape Play, opens Feb. 3, 2012. For more information, visit www.strand-theater.org.