American Strippers Strut Their Stuff at ACT

Carlos Gutierrez (Tommy); Photo credit: David Cantelli.

Carlos Gutierrez (Tommy); Photo credit: David Cantelli.

While Attleboro Community Theatre is now clocking in more than 60 years actively producing plays, the “old” broad is nowhere near slowing down to let the rest of the world pass it by. In fact, with their latest production, Kevin Broccoli’s naughty mythological mashup American Strippers, the group has thrown down the gauntlet to all other community theaters to step up their game and challenge their audiences to something more than yet another production of Who’s Afraid of Dying in Hamlet’s Southern Aunt’s Kitchen Sink: A Live Radio Play* (*not a real script. Yet.).

Far from a traditional choice of play, the group has taken on all comers with Broccoli’s American Strippers, a show that defies categorization due in part to its outrageous setup of Greek goddesses trekking to a Texas strip club staffed entirely by American folk heroes and legends. What starts out as a free-for-all bachelorette party promising a night full of boozing, balling and pole dancing comes complete with well over a dozen poetic, often densely layered monologues grappling with thorny questions about our shared cravings for sex, love, power and identity.

While it may sound like an impossible balancing act of fantasy and realism, the incredibly committed 16-person ensemble, under the sure hand of director Megan Ruggerio, turns in a fully invested, very satisfying evening of theater — with some super fun dance numbers from choreographer Carlos Gutierrez to boot.

So back to that ridiculous setup, aka “So, four goddesses walk into a strip joint.”

Our gal Aphrodite (Sarah Quintiliani) is set to marry the love of her life, fellow god Apollo (Courtney Stafford). Maid of honor Athena (Vivienne Carrette) is dead set against the marriage, having nursed a flame for the bride to be since, well, since forever. Fellow goddesses Demeter (Caitlyn Lively) and Artemis (Kimberly Paine) have decided to take her out for one last night of debauchery. They set their sights on Americana, a rowdy joint run with an iron fist by Paula Bunyon (a spitfire Kimberlyn Roche) with her trusty sidekick Babe (Aaron Preston) and staffed by crew of male dancers that include Johnny Appleseed (Brandon Harrington), Pecos Bill (Jason Karol), Davey Crockett (Joe Livingston) and the creator of the original epic fail, Casey at the Bat (Bob Lively). Steel-armed John Henry (Jay Are Adams) keeps things tight as the club’s bouncer, and brazen Sally Ann Crockett (the self-proclaimed “Goddess of not giving a shit”) keeps everyone in drinks at the bar.

Not surprisingly, it’s no accident that the Greek ladies have stumbled into this bar on this night. Bunyon’s “silent partner” at the club turns out to be Greek God Dionysus (Matthew Moos). Moos portrays Dionysus as “Harcort Fenton Mudd meets Fallstaff” who has rolled into the club, pimp cup in hand, intent on settling some scores, ruining some lives and pretty much fucking with everyone he can. Of course, things wouldn’t be complete unless the goddesses get caught up in the club’s mythology to the point that all-powerful Hera (Elizabeth Parent) has to come down to (*shudder*) TEXAS with petulant groom-to-be Apollo in tow. Parent brought down the house with laughter every time she even uttered the word “Texas.”

Not unlike that other legendary tourist trap, the Hotel California, we soon find out that while the men who are starring in the floor show are young, strapping legends, they cannot leave. Well, they could, but that would break their pledge to Paula Bunyon, and they would pretty much shrivel up into a not-so-sexy forgotten heap of nothingness. So, yeah, stripping it is!

The plot of the play, while funny, is more of a colorful framework on which hang some incredibly lovely monologues that give us brief, but deeply felt glimpses into each of the characters of the play. As many local theater-goers know already (and lord knows, any actor that has ever looked for a good audition piece), meticulously crafted monologues are Kevin Broccoli’s forte, and he is a prolific writer of these short form self-contained pieces.

As Babe, Aaron Preston was in fine form when it came time for him to take center stage and tell his story. He deftly handled the humor (most definitely the best opening line monologue ever) but more importantly, his pacing and specific choices painted a crystal-clear picture of everything he told us.

One of the loveliest sections of poetry for me was Artemis’ ode to her lost love Orion, a sweetly moving section handled with finesse by Kimberly Paine.

Kudos as well to Emily Lamarre’s solo moments as Sally Anne, the long-suffering wife of Davey Crockett. Lamarre found a lovely vulnerability in a role that could easily become a caricature (ok, let’s face it, almost any role in this play could be overplayed into caricature at any moment.)

While the cast can toss off Broccoli’s one liners like pros, the work that the cast put into fleshing out these these more descriptive, “slow build” moments alone onstage truly shone. When they spoke of their past lives, I saw it, I believed it and that, my friend, is a hard act to pull off.

Attleboro Community Theatre presents Kevin Broccoli’s American Strippers now through March 4 at the Ezekiel Bates Masonic Lodge, 71 North Main Street, Attleboro, MA. Remaining performance dates are March 2, 3 and 4. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8pm, and Sunday matinees will be at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online via squareup.com/market/acttickets. Senior and student discounts apply at the door or online. For tickets, call 508-226-8100 or  email: AttleboroCommunityTheatreACT@gmail.com

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