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Law of Improbability 

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Festival is once again upon us, with a spate of theatrical offerings honoring that late, great resident of the French Quarter. Loose Hog in the House of God by Thomas Kristopher won last year's one-act play contest sponsored by the festival, so the play was given a full production recently by the University of New Orleans Drama Department.

Loose Hog in the House of God is not a Williams spoof by any stretch of the imagination. But it does inhabit the same Southern gothic territory where the master set so much of his work.

In an evocative set (by Tricia Vitrano), we saw an old, faded billboard at the side of a highway. Somebody's bare feet were dangling down from the catwalk, but we couldn't see who the feet belonged to because she was sitting behind the sign.

When she wandered over to our side of the billboard, we saw that she was a barefoot girl in a dirty, ragged dress. Also, we noticed she seemed slightly nuts -- in a downtrodden, old-fashioned, country kind of way. A young man, who was more upscale and urban, entered the scene. His car had just broken down. The young man wanted information -- like, for instance, did the girl know where the nearest gas station was. But, the girl seemed to want something else -- a more meaningful contact of some sort.

"Aincha gonna ask me why I'm up here?" she taunted.

"You're a sick girl. You're a stupid, sick girl," he replied. At one point, early on, he got so provoked by her "stupidity" and her "sickness" that he tried to strangle her. Admittedly, this was not the best way to begin a friendship, but it was contact. The girl told the boy that she wanted to go along with him.

For most of the production, the girl seemed to be playing a cat-and-mouse game with the stranded boy. For his part, the boy seems baffled and frustrated and trying to get rid of her. But finally the boy started to tell his tale. It was a saga of grotesque violence. He had seen his father have sex with his sister, so he bashed in the patriarch's head with a fire poker.

Rough stuff, no doubt about it! Somehow, we had started off in a moonlit, lyrical landscape reminiscent of This Property Is Condemned and wandered into a smoky, blood-soaked psychic grotto of incest and murder.

Loose Hog in the House of God makes considerable demands on both the actors and the audience, for it stretches credulity to the limit. Under Lori Dewitt's direction, T. Joe Seibert and Suzie Johnson kept their focus and managed to engage us with this intense, improbable joining of unlikely soul mates.

Meanwhile, an even more improbable conjunction was being celebrated at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Starmites by Barry Keating and Stuart Ross is an intergalactic musical that was nominated for six Tony Awards (including Best Musical) in 1989. This wacky, high-spirited play has many twists and surprises. Basically, a teenage girl named Eleanor is obsessed with superhero comic books. She imagines herself to be a superheroine. In fact, she enters another dimension known as "Inner Space," where she joins up with the Starmites, a team of young superheroes, who try to combat the evil Shak Graa. In order to do this, Eleanor and the Starmites enter Shreikwood Forest, where they are set upon by the Banshees. These are Inner Space Amazons with "dangerous hairdos." They are led by their Queen, the Diva.

Anyway, Space Punk, leader of the Starmites, falls in love with Eleanor. But he is forced by the Diva to marry her daughter, Bizarbara, as a dynastic union of the Banshees and the Starmites. They will join forces against Shak Graa. But Space Punk is still in love with Eleanor, so the Diva puts Eleanor and Bizarbara into a molecular transforming device, so that Bizarbara becomes identical to Eleanor.

Well, there's lots more to the story, but that gives you a taste. And in any case, the singing and dancing are what the show is really about. Blake Coheley directed and choreographed this uproarious space shindig. Rod Bermingham conducted the rocking, five-piece band. While Jack and Brad Manis get credit for the spectacular pyrotechnics. The large student cast did a rousing job. A special nod to Aimée Fortier, Ariel Joder, Kristina Morales, Eric Bond, Patrick Hunter and Julius Feltus in the leads.

click to enlarge Karl (Lucas Harms) threatens the drag queen Candy (Andy English) in "And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens," from Tennessee in the Quarter at Southern Rep.
  • Karl (Lucas Harms) threatens the drag queen Candy (Andy English) in "And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens," from Tennessee in the Quarter at Southern Rep.
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