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Photo: davidallenstudio.com

Thrillpeddlers peddle more Cockettes in Hot Greeks and SF Playhouse gets kinda Guignol with Slasher

On the principle that when you’ve got it you should really flaunt it, San Francisco’s Thrillpeddlers essay their second revival of a musical by the storied Cockettes. Hot Greeks, which premiered in midnight performances at the old Palace Theater in 1972, was the gleefully crazed cross-dressing troupe’s only other fully scripted musical besides, of course, Pearls Over Shanghai, which Thrillpeddlers revived to long-running fame almost a year ago and which will run in repertory with the limited-run Greeks.

While not the Oresteia or anything, Hot Greeks is more than an excuse for a lot of louche, libidinous hilarity. Okay, not much more. But it is a knowing little romp — supported by some infectious songs courtesy of Martin Worman (book and lyrics) and Richard “Scrumbly” Koldewyn (music and additional lyrics, and musical director-accompanist for the revival) — wedding trashy high school romance with the trashy ancient Greece of Aristophanes and the Peloponnesian War.

As Athens U. prepares for the big game against traditional rival Sparta, pent-up frustrations on and off the field reach new heights when Tri Thigh Sorority’s own buxom-and-then-some head cheerleader, Lysistrata (played to deadpan perfection by Michael Soldier), leads her squad in a revolt against male domination, leaving the boys literally hard up (prostheses and the rest of the wonderful costuming on display by Kara Emry and Morningwood). A little gridiron frisking around (encouraged by the rousing patriotic ditty, “Everybody’s Got a Buddy on the Front,” featuring the always impressive Connie Champagne as dean’s wife Clitoristra) and finally a little sexual affirmative action by Lysistrata make everything all right in the end.

You’d expect Pearls to be a hard act to beat, but director Russell Blackwood’s Greeks is a blast — lovingly detailed, gamely performed, and voiced by a diverse and charmingly pan-sexual cast, and carefully choreographed, it’s a shrewd and sharply executed production that manages to remain always rambunctiously carefree in tone. But there’s more Cockettes mayhem in the second half of the evening, which is devoted to a floorshow menagerie of greatest hits and a chronological musical trip down memory lane with narrator Scrumbly Koldewyn, who begins things in Gertrude Stein drag for a rendition of "Gert’s Postcard" from the 1971–72 New Years Eve show Les Etoiles de Minuit, before taking over at the piano.

Together with Hot Greeks, the brightly executed and equally entertaining pieces on display in the floorshow serve to remind audiences of the perennial zest in much Cockettes material as well as the considerable talent that was there under all that glitter and pubic hair.

Texas cinematic massacre
 
Male domination gets a feminist comeuppance in Slasher, at SF Playhouse, but the effort seems both more serious and less supple than the joyfully subversive sexual pandemonium in Hot Greeks.

As the only breadwinner for her meds-addled wheelchair-bound mother (Susi Damilano) and kid sister (Melissa Quine), Sheena (Tonya Glanz) suffers run-of-the-mill humiliation and exploitation as a waitress at an Austin eatery frequented by film nerds like shaggy good-natured acquaintance Jody (Cole Alexander Smith). When Jody convinces an aging low-budget horror meister (Robert Parsons) to meet him there, the leering eye of the filmmaker takes in Sheena and convinces her to take the starring role as “the last girl” in his latest project, Blood Bath. Sheena’s big break, if that’s what it is, gets put in jeopardy by her vengeful haute-feminist mother, who plans to disrupt the shoot in no uncertain terms.

Unfortunately, no amount of stage blood can brighten the dreary sense of predictability in Slasher, though capable performances from an impressive cast directed by Jon Tracy go some way toward alleviating the chill lack of chills or the ho-hum aspect of its hardly fresh or revelatory feminist angle on the horror genre. Playwright Allison Moore has a talent for dialogue, though, and this regional premiere still manages to show her off as someone to watch.

Hot Greeks
Through June 27
Thurs, 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m., $30-69
Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 Tenth St, SF
1-800-838-3006, www.thrillpeddlers.com

Slasher
Through June 5
Tues, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8 p.m. (also Sat, 3 p.m.), $40
SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter, SF
(415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org

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