Flesh-Eating Foliage Rises Again
Horrors not a horror at ACE
by Anna Grace
Little Shop of Horrors is a perennial favorite for community theaters. Always fun, it can quickly take a dive into a campy, crazy production centered around a large green pile of singing felt. Can Actors Cabaret of Eugene hold audience attention for another run of Little Shop?
|Audrey (Samantha White) and Seymour (Cody Mendonca) with Audrey II. Photo by Jim Roberts
Yes. Credit should go to director Michael P. Watkins for playing to the script’s strengths and delivering an honest production. He offers us big voices and sharp, stylized choreography and is willing to sacrifice a corner of the precious ACE stage for a live band.
Ultimately responsible for the depth of this production is the thoughtful, heart-stealing performance by Cody Mendonca as Seymour. Mendonca doesn’t have the strongest voice on stage, but he moves this production from fluffy entertainment to the satirical morality play it is. Seymour sells his soul to an alien devil for fame, fortune and the woman of his dreams, only to find himself powerless as he is forced to watch all he loves consumed. Mendonca holds nothing back, as evidenced by an onstage kiss so real and so passionate I feel the Weekly should create a Best of Eugene category for it.
Mendonca is one of the reasons you should see this play. Another is the phenomenal Doo-Wop girls, Asley Apelizin, Melissa Miller and Sophie Mitchell. They are the Greek chorus to this hysterical tragedy and the strongest part of the production. This trio is packed with talent, energy and elf-skin.
Audience members seemed particularly enthralled with Collin Gray’s grungy, larger-than-life take on the sadistic dentist Orin, although I thought it paled in comparison to his quick turn as the drunk in “Skid Row,” a brief but splendid study in physical comedy. Singing the role of Audrey II was capable Mark VanBeever. That’s right, your reigning Slug Queen Anislugsia is playing the plant. You’ll not have an opportunity to see that everyday.
Audrey II’s puppeteers needed a little more practice. They ate well enough but lip-synched poorly. Little Shop of Horrors continues to entertain. There are some moments between “Skid Row” and “Suddenly Seymour” that drag, but overall it is a play that has been, once again, successfully resurrected, proving that if you do it right, a cocktail of doo-wop and blood-sucking botanicals always carries a kick.
Little Shop of Horrors continues through Oct. 17 at ACE. Tix at actorscabaret.org or 683-4368.