Shine On, You Crazy Glowstick
By HOLLY WALL, 3/28/2007
Ever think long and hard about those little green glowsticks ravers always bring to the club and wonder what the bright green goo inside is made of?
Well, apparently, some of the folks over at the Nightingale Theater have, because that was the top of their current production, which opened last Friday night.
I told you the story last week of how two members of the local instrumental group Milk Truck wrote a wacky story inspired by those little green sticks and about how John Cruncleton turned the story into a script. Remember? Well, the script is wonderful, the story as funny as it is far out and the acting, singing and live musical accompaniment excellent.
It starts with psychedelic music, images of the band playing projected and distorted onto a big screen. Enter Annie Ellicott, skipping and reciting a nursery rhyme. She wears an Alice in Wonderland-inspired blue dress and a brown braided wig and carries a plastic doll to match.
She pops off the doll's head, pulls out a glowstick, and then the entire cast joins her onstage, singing the show's theme song (a catchy number that stayed in my head long after I left the theater).
Basically, inquisitive Annie wants to know what makes the glowstick glow. The players let you know that this young, innocent girl must go on a journey to find out, but the really interesting part, of course, is going to be meeting the cast of characters who will help her along the way.
Annie screams, the lights go out, and it turns out the Milkman (Jason Watts) has run her over with his milk truck. He's an odd duck, who delivers milk while other sleep and peeps in their windows, listening to their dreams.
Next, Annie is in a seedy bar where she finds her mother (April Marrs) is a foul-mouthed lounge singer, who reminisces about the first time she ever saw one of those glowsticks--after following a couple of sexually-charged boys into the deep, dark woods as a young girl.
Mother's answer to the source of the glowstick's glow? Magic.
Next scene--Russ Maloy runs onstage wearing a straight jacket, being chased by imitation hounds. He's a pervert, making sexual advances at her before sweet-talking her into removing the jacket and putting her in it instead. Of course, this guy's the father. The moral of his story is "freedom is restriction."
The stoned out Pilot is up next, played by Jae Wilson. He says "encapsulated vapor of green cheese from the moon" makes Annie's glowstick glow, and takes her on a ride in his plane before crash-landing outside the tent of a revival disguised as a carnival.
Each time Annie meets a new character, they sing together, and in each scene, the song is of a different musical genre. In the scene with the Pilot, she raps, and the only bad thing I can say about that is it didn't go on long enough.
So they land, the Pilot bails, and Annie meets T-Bone (Owen Froeshle), a love-stricken carnie being tossed out of the carnival.
T-Bone tells the young wanderer about his love for Luba, a performer inside the carnival, who is actually the victim of a brainwashing scheme masterminded by the Church of the Natural Messiah.
Luba, T-Bone's former lover, has left him to be with the Messiah, and she is soliciting new followers to his religion via her revival disguised as a peep show.
T-Bone says she knows what makes the glowstick glow, and he advises Annie to dress up like a man and sneak into the show.
Barker (John Cruncleton) is the carnival emcee and describes the interesting sexual acts Luba performs with a musical instrument whose name rhymes with her own. Enter Luba's girls, Katerina the Naughty Ballerina and Savonne the Minx (of Eye Candy Burlesque), who warm up the disguised Annie for the main event. They discover the boy is really a girl and Barker berates her for being cheap and disgusting.
Luba (Katrina Lofgren) initially appears to the audience and Annie as a damning voice with no face, but, once Annie begins to cry, runs out apologetically, thrusting her bosom to the girl in consolation.
She tells Annie that the Messiah knows what makes the glowstick glow and that she will now be part of their big, happy family. She poisons the girl with popcorn and, after Annie passes out, a big, fuzzy purple monster attacks her in her bed while shadow puppets play behind them.
When she wakes, the Messiah's co-fan club presidents (Kaycee Johnson and Julie Seals), dressed in green mod minidresses and white gogo boots and leis, greet her. When the highly-anticipated Messiah (Jeff Davis) finally enters, wearing a satin baby blue bathrobe and white sneakers, he speaks in short, seemingly-inspired sentences, punctuated by gasps and groans from his followers.
The revival is raided, everyone scatters and Annie finds herself at the crossroads, facing a bluesy man by the name of Paper Bag Jones (Joseph Gomez). He wears a paper bag on one hand while playing the guitar because 99 years ago he sold his soul to the devil to play licks.
But you can't have the blues without a little pain, so the side effect of this deal is that anyone who hears him play drops dead. He's just that good. If he could, he'd sell his soul again, this time to be heard. Annie wonders if the devil who owns his soul knows what makes the glowstick glow and, if so, how can she get a hold of him?
Paper Bag says he'd give anything to have a light in the world, and Annie gives him her glowstick. It's not much, but it glows, she tells him. This, apparently, is the small token of generosity he needed to break the spell, and he rips off his clothes, revealing a pink tube top, leopard-print panties and black fishnet stockings underneath.
The devil (that big, fuzzy purple monster) has finally released him, and he tells her the source of the glowstick's glow--its actual physical formula. And thus, the answer is in the question, in Annie's journey to discover something she knew all along.
Don't you just love it when stories end that way? Cruncleton's script is sharp, witty and biting, filled with nuances that comment on everything--religion and politics, obviously, but also music, creativity, freedom, friendship and family.
The acting is all well-done, and those guys can sing, too. If you keep up with the Nightingale much, you know they produce high-quality shows that should be outselling their small space, and this one is no exception. It is kind of dark and abstract, but you'll get the point and have a fun time doing it.
You have two more chances to see "Glowstick," this weekend and next, March 30 and 31 and April 6 and 7. Shows start at 8, and the theater is at 1416 E. 4th St. Tickets are only $5, and the beer is cheap.