When I drove down to catch the show (at the recently reopened Flour Power Playhouse on Paris Road), I almost lost my nerve. Mile after mile of darkness -- nothing open, not even a gas station. Talk about a wasteland! And here I was starting to fear I had gotten lost. Who to ask for directions? But no, there it was before me: Paris Road. And, there was the Flour Power Playhouse -- lights ablaze and surrounded by a sea of parked cars.
Flour Power Playhouse, in fact, started out as a pastry shop, and still is. The owners -- Chef Doyle DeForest and his wife, Ronda -- now also offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus, they have remodeled the pleasant little place into a casual cabaret and invited the Shine gang to perform their shenanigans.
Shine Productions (which has been doing shows in St. Bernard Parish for several years, mostly at the Nunez College Auditorium) took a beating from Katrina. The members lost their costumes, their scripts and computers that were stashed in a warehouse that took on 10 feet of water. Their lights, luckily, were OK, since they were at Flour Power (where Shine has presented shows since last Valentine's Day). Flour Power was one of the few establishments in Chalmette that escaped hurricane damage.
Shine Productions has done a few shows since Katrina. For instance, they performed on a cruise ship for local cops who were housed on board. But, Shine After Dark was their first real open-to-the-public appearance. And a nice little crowd they drew! In fact, the lady sitting next to me told me she had come all the way from Mandeville. So, don't be too discouraged by the long, dark drive for future.
Shine After Dark was an evening of comedy skits. It contained "adult" material -- in the most ironic sense of that word. "Dirty" is what we say about jokes. Shine After Dark was full of them -- dirty jokes, I mean.
Two of the sketches were written by the late Shel Silverstein, whom I knew of only as a famous writer of children's books. I didn't know he had had a long and profitable relationship with Playboy magazine. Clearly, the guy had an active "adult" imagination -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more. In fact, one of the Silverstein sketches was called "Buy One, Get One Free" -- the items being offered in this dubious bargain were ladies of the evening. Quite a deal, if you've got the stamina.
Most of the skits in Shine After Dark were written by Shine stalwart Tom Hassinger and co-founder Barry Lemoine. The show was a bewildering grab-bag of lewd confections, so it's hard to describe delicately. But, as an example, one scene gave us a mom and dad waiting irritably for their daughter and her latest flame to get home. Dad complains that the daughter always picks "losers." Not this latest flame, as it turns out. He's in the movie business -- more precisely, he makes porn. And, he thinks their little darling has a future as one of his stars.
When you break the humor down like that, to the nitty-gritty, it sounds bald-faced and a bit crude. What made it work was the straightforward, at time outrageous, charm of the performers. The cast was what Lemoine calls "our core group," Christian Bordelon, Will Schneider, Shannon Gildea, Katie Betz, Tara Sandifer, Rose Marie Sand and Lemoine himself have worked together often. In Shine After Dark, they enjoyed themselves and therefore, so did we. The hilarity of the audience was the proof of the pudding.
Also, on board for this off-color divertimento were Tom Hassinger and Catherine Guste -- as well as Jude LeBlanc, who kicked off the show with a medley of songs, and Jodi Borello, who closed it with a mischievous monologue about the tribulations of Katrina.
Due to the Katrina-scattering syndrome that has made it hard to pull together casts, Lemoine says Shine Productions will act more like a repertory company, using the core group of performers.
It's cheering to know that the Shine performers are back with us and to learn that they are already planning their new season (which will include shows at the Flour Power Playhouse). But first, they are going on the road; Shine is taking two of their recent productions, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged and Voices From the Storm to New York City, where they will be performing them at schools as part of a cultural program -- and reminding the Big Apple that the Big Easy is alive and kicking.