At 97, Town Players of Pittsfield springs to life with "Rocky Horror Show"

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PITTSFIELD — As it begins its 97th season with a return to its old home at Berkshire Community College's The Boland Theater, Town Players of Pittsfield is behaving like a frisky pup. No, let's make that a hormonal teenager full of life, challenge and audacity.

Case in point: Richard O'Brien's 1973 musical homage to schlock horror movies, "The Rocky Horror Show," which emerges from the fog-enshrouded Boland Theater stage with unrelenting energy and assertion, and a go-for-broke commitment that should satisfy in-the-know members of the audience.

Director Matthew T. Teichner's production — he also designed the multi-level scaffold-platforms-stage floor setting and the rock-show-extravaganza lighting — does its best to reach out to a generally willing, if, at Friday's opening, also somewhat uncertain, audience. Ushers encourage ticketholders to move down and sit as close to the stage as possible.

The props that rain down over the course of the evening on audience members and the rock musicians in the open pit are soft, harmless and playful, as are the lines of dialogue, some of them improvised, that are shouted out from the audience, at will. Friendly. Non-threatening.

"The Rocky Horror Show" begins with an ode to the movies O'Brien loves, honors and has a great deal of fun with over the course of this two-hour event — the grade-B horror/sci-fi movies of the '60s and '50s, many of which are summoned in a photo montage on an upstage screen while Usherette Trixie (Tara Hostash), all geared up in a bustier with flowery trim at the hem and a big box of candies suspended from around her neck, delivers the song "Science Fiction Double Feature," before moving into the audience where, over the course of the show, she makes herself at home, going up and down the aisles — at one point planting a gentle kiss on the top of an unsuspecting elderly gentleman's head; occasionally occupying a vacant seat; perching at the edge or side of the stage, before returning to the stage for the show's solo finale — a wistful reprise of "Science Fiction Double Feature."

"Rocky Horror Show" evokes those many Saturdays I spent as a kid with my friends at the neighborhood movie theater watching 10 cartoons, shorts and the cheap B-movie — a western, a horror film, a sci-fi cheapie — that was the second half of that week's double feature while popcorn and candy were being thrown at the screen amid howls, hoops and sometimes derisive laughter. O'Brien's musical encompasses all of that into one antic package.

O'Brien's homage spins the tale of an impossibly ingenuous couple — geeky, bespectacled Brad Major (Brendan Brierley) and his fiancee-to-be, the virtuous, virginal blonde Janet Weiss (Megan Morse). Brad's car breaks down on a deserted country road. Thinking he might find a phone, he and Janet knock on the door of the only house nearby which turns out to be the home of mad, transvestite scientist Frank 'N' Furter (Alexander Benson), who is at work in his lab on a sublime creation — the muscular, Charles Atlas-perfect Rocky (Kevin Miner), whom Frank 'N' Furter has created for his own pleasure but who turns out to be indiscriminate in his own sexual preferences.. But this is a realm in which sexual identity flies out the window, sanity is turned upside down. You just know that by the end, the moral constraints on Brad and Janet will come off. Geekiness and virginity will give way to Frank 'N' Furter's excessive self-serving, indulgent, sexually glutinous lifestyle.

Teichner's talented cast deftly plays everything to the hilt, which is what you need here, At the same time, the whole affair begins to run out of steam midway through the second half. What begins as a mad, antic, inspired romp settles into something of a wearying slog. Much of that is due simply to O'Brien simply not knowing when to stop.

The biggest issue at Friday's opening was a seriously unbalanced sound system in which the appropriately pumped up volume from the pit competed with the pumped up volume of the singers to the point that, with the exceptions of "Rocky Horror's" few quiet numbers, the lyrics were virtually incomprehensible throughout.

Still, you really have to give Town Players of Pittsfield credit not only for taking on this free-for-all pastiche, but also for pulling it off with such bravado, style and seize-the-day impulses.

Clearly, this is not your parents' Town Players.

Reach Jeffrey Borak at 413-496-6212


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