Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THEATER BEAT

'Red Scare' Doesn't Find the Right Target

September 27, 1996|PHILIP BRANDES

"Ideas are dangerous--squash 'em!" brays Ethel Merman-esque entertainer Pat Pilford (LeAnn Hamilton) at the height of McCarthy-era paranoia in Charles Busch's "Red Scare on Sunset" at the St. Genesius Theatre.

Satirizing a charged topic like the anti-communist witch hunts that ruined so many Hollywood careers is a tough challenge at best, and unfortunately this attempt isn't nearly clever enough to effectively lampoon its dark target.

Evoking the over-the-top melodrama of 1950s propaganda films like Jack Webb's "Red Nightmare," the fabric of the American dream factory is being painted you-know-what color by the insidious infiltration of revolutionary theories from the Moscow Theatre. This sets the stage for a subtext of parodies any survivor of the Stanislavsky method will doubtless appreciate.

But in the whirl of spies, show-biz dupes and G-men saviors, most of the performances are far too self-aware to nail the clueless charm of true camp. Rising above the forced hilarity are focused comic turns by Hamilton, Maile Flanagan and Bonnie Lucas as the wide-eyed heroine, who never once signals she's in on the joke. Jack Webb would have been proud.

* "Red Scare on Sunset," St. Genesius Theatre, 1049 N. Havenhurst, West Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Oct. 27. $17. (213) 660-TKTS. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|