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Devil Boys From Beyond
By Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott
Original Score and Sound Design by Drew Fornarola
Directed by Gary F. Bell
Stray Dog Theatre
December 3, 2015

Sarajane Alverson, Jonathan Hey, Michael Juncal, Teryl Thurman Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre

Sarajane Alverson, Jonathan Hey, Michael Juncal, Teryl Thurman
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre

Devil Boys From Beyond is like a trip to a drive-in movie circa 1957, but with a decidedly 21st century twist and carloads of snark, irony, and raunchy humor. A broadly satirical send-up of old “B” grade sci-fi films, Devil Boys is the latest offering from Stray Dog Theatre. While this isn’t a particularly deep or profound play, that’s not the point. It’s got a strong cast of enthusiastic actors hamming it up for all the story’s worth.

Unusual things are happening in the small town of Lizard Lick, Florida, and acclaimed New York reporter Matilda “Mattie” Van Buren (Sarjane Alverson) is sent to investigate. Accompanied by her photographer ex-husband Gregory Graham (Stephen Peirick) and followed by her rival, the snarky Lucinda Marsh (Michael Baird), Mattie questions the need for such a sensationalist story despite the insistence of her editor, Gilbert Wiatt (Jonathan Hey). Upon arriving in Lizard Lick after a somewhat slow, talky start, the story gets moving as Mattie and Gregory meet some of the local residents–elderly women such as Florence Wexler (Michael Juncal) and Dotty Primrose (Teryl Thurman) who are minimizing the reported alien invasion and enjoying time with their husbands, who have apparently been transformed into young, scantily clad hunks (Ryan Wiechmann, Brandon Brendel).  Throw in the family secrets, Gregory’s struggle to quit drinking, Lucinda’s meddling, an “alien baby” in a jar, and quite a few surprising plot twists and the show makes for a broad, deliberately overwrought story that provokes not much thought, but a lot of laughs.

The story is presented in the old-school, overacted style of a bad sci-fi film, but ramped up to 11.  The acting is deliberately overdone, and hammed up marvelously by Alverson as the intrepid 50s reporter Mattie, Peirick as the conflicted Gregory, and especially Baird as the villainous Lucinda and Juncal as the enthusiastically obstructive Florence. Both actors play their female roles convincingly and with good, hilariously exaggerated comic flair. Wiechmann, as “Harry Wexler”, and Brendel as “Sheriff Jack Primrose” play their roles with energy and charm, as well, and Hey gives a fine performance as old-movie style hard-boiled newspaper editor Wiatt.

The technical aspects of the show are fine and in the satirical spirit of the story, as well. The set, by Justin Been, consists primarily of a giant vintage postcard-styled billboard for Lizard Lick, along with furniture as needed to set the scenes. There are also some fun props including the “alien baby”, and Eileen Engel’s costumes are colorful and appropriate for the period and tone of the show. A real highlight of the production is the original score and sound design, by Drew Fornarola. The score, including atmospheric melodramatic music and one torch-song musical number for Alverson, ideally sets and maintains the overall mood of the show and provides an excellent soundtrack for the action.

Overall, I would say Devil Boys From Beyond is a fun show, but that’s about it. The performances are all fine and funny, but there is a little bit of a sense of being so ironic and overdone that it’s somewhat difficult to get fully immersed in the experience of the play. It’s all artifice. It’s funny, enjoyable artifice, and with some fun gags and jokes, but there’s not much else beyond that. It also takes a while for the plot to really get moving. Still, with Stray Dog’s enthusiastic, energetic cast, this production makes for an enjoyable, somewhat nostalgic cinematic and theatrical experience.

Sarajne Alverson, Stephen Peirick, Michael Baird Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre

Sarajne Alverson, Stephen Peirick, Michael Baird
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre

Devil Boys From Beyond is being presented by Stray Dog Theatre at the Tower Grove Abbey until December 19. 2015.

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