Eugene Weekly : Theater : 11.06.08

Transsexual Transylvanians
A guide to Rocky Horror at ACE
by Anna Grace

I’m not reviewing The Rocky Horror Show. The script is ridiculous, the music trite and the acting? Beyond campy. Choreography consists of the regulation standard box steps, jazz hands and pelvic thrusts. The Actors Cabaret of Eugene emphasizes sex, glitz and shock value. 

Yet another Rocky Horror moment of perfection

So basically, it’s perfect. Beyond perfect — a transcendent experience for fans of Rocky Horror and a fun night out for the rest of us. A tip sheet:

Whom to take

I chose my crew carefully for the epically vulgar Rocky. Julie was my partner in crime 20 years ago when we were awkward high school sophomores in a Joe Zingo production of Rocky Horror. Kim was the director of the shadow cast for the UO screenings of Rocky two years running ­ a coinsure.

I suggest that you gather a group of your loudest, loosest, least prudent friends. I’d avoid this play for first dates, showing people around Eugene and family reunions.

But then again, I don’t know your family.

What to expect

Sex and silliness, a live band and an enthusiastic cast: What more does The Rocky Horror Show need? To prepare for his role as Rocky (an adorable monster created for the purpose of great sex) veteran actor Colin Gray was instructed to practice Charles Atlas-esque poses before the mirror. When he attempted to look deeper into his character, he was asked to stop overthinking and just relax and have fun. That advice will serve audience members as well. 

What to wear

After hours of trying to squeeze an aura of drag queen out of our professional wardrobes, we were pleased with ourselves. Like an ostentation of rhinestoned, big-haired, stiletto-heeled peacocks, we strutted into the theater. ACE Producer Jim Roberts’ face fell when he saw us: “Aw, you girls didn’t dress up!” 

What? I was wearing a brooch! But a quick survey of the theater confirmed we were looking pretty tame. We should have worn boas, wigs, tutus and party hats. And definitely eyeliner. We learned that audience member goals should be to wear as much glitz as possible while exposing the maximum amount of skin.

How to behave

One does not go to The Rocky Horror Show for cultural enlightenment; one goes to join in the fun. The film’s cult following has a 30-year tradition of audience participation. According to Gray, the actors are prepared for just about any eventuality — and if you’re trying to throw an actor off, you should know they are equally busy trying to crack each other up. 

A few guidelines: You should jump up and do The Time Warp. You may not throw anything. The band leads most of the talk-back, but audience members speak freely. You should engage but remember that the audience has come to see the show, not you. Keep in mind that Narrator Chris McVein is not a 2-D projection on a screen, and Cate Wolfenbarger is not, to my knowledge, a sex-crazed groupie. They can hear and see everything you do.

How (not) to get served

We had a hard time getting anything to eat or drink. Actors double as servers, and the bar was either closed or totally backed up while an exhausted McVein tried to negotiate drinks for 100+ patrons. If you want dessert at intermission, you have to order it before the show, but no one ever stopped by our table to ask. If libations are a necessity for your experience of Rocky, be prepared to wrestle down an actor/waiter. We considered doing what we certainly did not do in high school and smuggling in a flask. But that would be wrong.

But isn’t the movie better?

No. Rocky was originally a stage show, mocking sci-fi horror flicks. It was not until the musical was made into the 1975 film that the shadow cast and audience talk-back became de rigueur. Rocky purists may be tempted to eschew the stage production, but a trip to ACE is an essential experience. The synergy created by the interaction between a live cast and audience alleviates the darkness of the show. This ACE show has a tongue-in-cheek, all-out razzle dazzle spin, making the stage production a lighthearted, hilarious night out with the girls — or people dressed up as girls.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show runs through Nov. 8 at ACE. Tix at or 683-4368.