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REVIEW

'Bad Seed,' new growth

The homicidal little girl is a guy in drag and everything's over the top in Buzzworks' take.

July 27, 2007|Charles McNulty | Times Staff Writer

Rhoda, the adorable, homicidal little girl of Maxwell Anderson's play "The Bad Seed," which spawned the 1956 cult film, is as diabolically angelic as ever in the return of the Buzzworks Theater Company's celebrated send-up. But as played in drag by Danny Schmitz, the directorial mastermind behind the production (now playing at the Lounge Theater), she might want to consider purchasing an electric razor.

If you like your theatrics performed with pedal-to-the-metal camp, then you'll no doubt get a kick out of "Bad Seed," which lops off "the" from the title but retains the infamous rotten kernel. Say what you will about this quasi-scientific potboiler, in which Freudian theories are bandied about with other supposed criminological breakthroughs, there's something about a young murderess in a pinafore that commands attention.

Fortunately, Kyle Blitch is on hand as the "facilitator" to ensure that everyone sticks to Anderson's text. Dressed like a West Hollywood version of Olympic gymnast Bart Conner, he sits atop the refrigerator and throws out a tissue whenever an actor plays fast and loose with the lines.

Several of the original cast members from the 1996 L.A. production are back, including Andrea Hutchman as Rhoda's chronically disbelieving mom.

Michael Halpin transforms the "larvated" homosexual neighbor from a closet case into a Village People flamer. And as Monica Breedlove, the landlord who's as obsessed with psychoanalysis as she is her darling pet Rhoda, Cheryl Hawker (who alternates in the role with Michelle Hutchison and the originator of the travestied part, Mary Jo Pehl) cuts a lusciously oversized figure that would surely make John Waters swoon.

But the pièce de résistance has to be Melissa Peterman, who at the reviewed performance played the sloshed, grief-stricken Mrs. Daigle and her puppet husband, Mr. Daigle, the parents of the boy Rhoda may have savagely beaten to death. I'm not sure what Mo Collins, who alternates in the roles, is like, but if she's nearly as delirious as Peterman's mascara-smeared "Absolutely Fabulous" cartoon, the show is worth a second visit.

Not that "Bad Seed" is going to go down in the annals of theater history with the best of Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. The production could be tighter (the rhythm in general is too herky-jerky), and Schmitz's performance winks at the audience more than it should. Though in fairness to the director and star, let it be known that Patty McCormack, who played Rhoda in the movie, was seen uproariously laughing in the opening-night audience.

All told, it's a giddy showcase not just of a crazy old play but also of the historically warped understanding of what used to be called "abnormal behavior." Schmitz's lampoon magnifies for our delight the ordinary freakishness surrounding Rhoda's creepily extraordinary kind.

charles.mcnulty@latimes.com

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'Bad Seed'

Where: The Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays

Ends: Aug. 25

Price: $25

Contact: (323) 960-5563 or www.plays411.com/badseed

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

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