Jason Cruz (left) and Everett Quinton in 'Drop Dead Perfect'
By popular demand, Erasmus Fenn's critically lauded farcical thriller Drop Dead Perfectis bringing a taste of 1950s Florida Keys realness back to New York City. Ensuring that every laugh is painted perfectly, accomplished director Joe Brancato and cherished actor Everett Quinton have returned to the show as well, with Quinton reprising his role as the delightfully demented Idris--a woman of simple pleasures who just wants to paint the perfect still life no matter the cost
With the charm of a 1950s sitcom, the ambience of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and lighting cues ripped from the noir genre, Drop Dead Perfect is a whimsical pastiche of bygone pop culture. Hinting at the inception of the play, Fenn recalls watching America's "first reality show," I Love Lucy. "I remember they went off in June, but coming back she was pregnant - except they couldn't say pregnant, she was with child," says Fenn. "And then, when we tuned in in the fall, on comes this cute little boy." Gobsmacked, Fenn was confused by how fast little Ricky grew up. "My mother told me that wasn't really Ricky, that's an actor," he says. "I was like, 'What ever happened to the real Ricky?'" And through the art of theater, Fenn is able to pseudo answer his own question by creating a Ricky of his own. A well-endowed, suave Cuban ex-con of a Ricky that may or may not be the son of Idris' estranged sister, Lucy.
Yet, for audiences who may not have the cultural experience to gag over the insinuations of Ethel, one of Idris' neighbors, being a lesbian -- which naturally occur after the character Vivien [possibly named for actress Vivian Vance] moves in with her) -- or to react at the clever McGillicuddy name drops, Drop Dead Perfect has plenty to offer. "This project has been for me, a wonderful way to see Everett [Quinton] share this gift with a new generation," Brancato explains. "I grew up on it, but to share it with people who maybe have heard about him but haven't seen what he can do and what he can sculpt out of the character, is so much fun."
Quinton made a name for himself as an actor and designer for the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, which was founded by his partner Charles Ludlam. In 1987, after Ludlam passed, Quinton assumed the role of artistic director of the company and continued to stage humorous adaptions of serious works such as A Tale of Two Cities and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. "On Saturday evenings, when I was in high school and college, I would go to Sheridan Square and see the Ridiculous Theatrical Company," recalls Brancato. "Camille, Bluebeard, all these pieces that these people - this brand of talent - was bringing forth with such abandon. I was like the other [lyrical theater, which he was studying at the time] is really good, but this is exciting," he says. Luckily for modern audiences, while the years have passed, Quinton's art remains fresh and exhilarating. Made uninhibited by the delirious comedy, audiences laugh freely during Drop Dead Perfect and everyone walks out smiling.
When it comes to creating the fabulous Idris Seabright, Quinton luckily has a trove of references to pull from. "I've got a bag of tricks," says Quinton. "Everybody does." Talking about the process of preparing the show, Brancato says "During rehearsal, we'd turn to each other and go 'Ruth Roman!' And he'd deliver Ruth Roman, who is an actress of the '50s." So, from mugging like to Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest to casting imposing silhouettes like Alfred Hitchcock, Drop Dead Perfect's short 90 minutes fly by as Quinton and cast make the audience drunk on 1950s throwbacks. "There is a myriad of possibilities, treasure chests," Quinton says. "Characters like this don't come along, especially for a male, a female-identified man. There aren't that many roles."
With the mad-cap zaniness and the inclusion of drag performances, it might be hard to pin down the ideal audience for this offbeat thriller. Ultimately, "we want everybody to come," says Quinton. "It's a fun thing. It's for everybody. I'm into bringing kids to this. I used to bring my little brothers to all the Ridiculous [Theatrical Company] stuff, every single thing. I object to people that don't let children see fabulous theatre." Additionally, Jason Edward Cook's portrayal of Vivien has the capability of fooling audiences into thinking he's biologically female. "I think that's what's most rewarding - when we see these couples coming out and the conversation is sometimes along the lines of, 'Honey, I'm telling you. It's a girl. They just put a man's name in the thing [program], but it's a girl,'" says Brancato. "God bless him. Let him go home, fantasize about her, and let them have a great night. I feel I'm doing something good for society."
Drop Dead Perfect's strictly limited eight-week engagement Off-Broadway at the Theater at St. Clements in New York City continues through Oct. 11. For tickets and more information, visit DropDeadPerfect.com.