Red Scare on Sunset is a colorful satirical camp at NCTC

J. Conrad Frank as Mary Dale and Nancy French as her buddy Pat Pilford in NCTC Red Scare on Sunset by Charles Busch

Red Scare on Sunset: Satirical Comedy/Farce by Charles Busch. Directed by Allen Sawyer. New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) , Decker Theatre, 25 Van Ness Ave @ Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102. 415-861-8972,OR

Sept 21 – Oct 21, 2018

Red Scare on Sunset is a colorful satirical camp at NCTC Rating: ★★★☆☆

Charles Busch is hailed as a master of camp (Vampire Lesbians of Sodom) as well as a mainstream playwright (The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife).  His 1991 Red Scare at Sunset that is receiving a colorful energetic staging at NCTC is set in Hollywood during infamous red baiting McCarthy Era of the 1950s. It melds a serious topic with over-the-top camp. It creates a long evening that is only partially satisfying but does have cogency in today’s political milieu. The biggest laugh of the evening erupted midway through the first act with the simple line, “as sober as a judge” that inadvertently reflects the turmoil of the present day congressional hearings.

The miss-mash of plot is really a series of vignettes strung together allowing the actors to over emote to garner laughs. Two of the actors, J. Conrad Frank and David Bicha are absolutely superb and the Frank’s fantastic costumes (Mr. David and Ruby Vixen) match his performance giving the evening a touch of class.

J. Conrad Frank who is local star in the bay Area as Katya Smirnoff-Skyy plays matinee idol screen star Mary Dale happily married to failed actor Frank Taggert (Kyle Goldman). They have a gay house boy (Malcolm) who has the hots for Frank and Frank has the hots for sultry Marta Towers (Baily Hopkins) who is an agent for the communist party. Marta convinces Mary to allow Frank to join a Stanislavski Method Acting Class that is actually a front for the commie party who are attempting to take over Hollywood to further their cause. They are being challenged by Mary’s best friend and popular radio personality Pat Pilford (Nancy French) whose severe patriotism allows her “out” anyone with communist leanings. She changes her ways when the nefarious commie clique blackmail her with threats to publish pornographic photos taken years ago.

Frank also has a hidden undisclosed past sufficient to force him to attempt a beastly attack on the unsuspecting Mary. Never fear, the deed is thwarted because the show is still in the first act. Besides that, Mary is the lynch pin of the evening and must take center stage until the final full blown patriotic final. Before that happens even the unsavory background of the commie quartet are uncovered making their comeuppance even more apropos.

The action picks up speed with outrageous plot twists, onstage battles (fight choreography by Will Springhorn Jr.) that end with a devastating scene of our heroine Mary reading a list of names to the House Un-American Committee.  With this scene the camp humor becomes secondary to the seriousness of the McCarthy Era that foreshadowed the present political milieu in Washington.

The running time is a long two hours with an intermission.

CAST: David Bicha (Ralph Barnes/RG Benson/Salesgirl/Granny Lou); Kyle Dayrit (Malcom/Old Lady/Rudy);  J. Conrad Frank (Mary Dale);  Nancy French (Pat Pilford);  Kyle Goldman (Frank Taggart);  Baily Hopkins (Marta Towers); Robert Molossi (Mitchell Drake); and Joe Wicht (Bertram Barker/Jerry).

CREATIVE CAST: Scenic design by Kuo-Hao Lo; Costume design by Tina Sogliuzzo; Mr. Frank’s gown design by Mr. David; Sound design by Diana Carey; Prop design by Ting na Wang; Stage management by Emilio Racinez; Wig design by Flynn De Marco; Dresser Flynn De Marco.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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