The Rocky Horror Show isn’t known as a particularly serious play, but perhaps the most impressive thing about the Department of Performing Arts production is that all of the actors could keep a straight face. It’s not an easy feat in a 90-minute show of cheap jokes whose cheapness makes them great and absurd sex scenes that make the movie look Puritan by comparison.
The shock value of “Rocky Horror” has faded through the years, but DPA makes up for it by taking the musical even more over-the-top, into the territory of the bizarre, the ridiculous and the ridiculously fun.
One thing that hasn’t faded is the movie and musical’s cult following, something that director and theater Professor Cara Gabriel said was one of the challenges of the production.
“I had never been to a midnight screening or a shadow performance so I was totally not in touch with the cult following,” Gabriel said. “I knew there was one, and I knew that was something we had to honor, so I did some research.”
As part of that research, the entire cast went to a midnight screening of the 1975 “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with a shadow performance to witness the ritual audience participation and callbacks. The cast even rehearsed with people in the audience yelling the usual callbacks to be prepared.
Although the cast familiarized themselves with the movie’s following, they didn’t let it dictate their interpretations of the characters.
“It’s a balancing act between giving the cult followers some of what they want and also making it our own,” College of Arts and Sciences junior Jesse Saywell said. Saywell plays a dynamic Brad, jumping back and forth between hesitance and gleeful curiosity throughout.
The show does a good job of differentiating itself from the movie for the most part, delivering a much more energetic rendition. Although the energy increase is successful for the most part, it is at times jarring, perhaps only because the flamboyant and emphatic characters contrast sharply with the more understated sultriness of the characters in the movie adaptation.
The Rocky Horror Show is the first show of the season for DPA, who are doing a themed season for the first time ever this year. The season’s theme is “Mad Science: A Season Under the Microscope.” Each play of the season will have some science theme even if, as is the case with Rocky Horror, that connection is only to science fiction.
The science theme was explored more in depth after the matinee performance on Oct. 19 through a panel discussion on the biology and science of sexuality.
There will also be a student-only midnight performance in the Rocky Horror tradition on Oct. 25. Students are encouraged to dress up and participate. Although outside props are banned, prop bags will be sold for $1 before the show with proceeds going to AU Queers and Allies.
“We want a rowdy crowd at the midnight show but not too rowdy,” Gabriel said. “Not like throwing up in the aisles rowdy.”
The Rocky Horror Show plays at The Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre through Oct 26. For ticket information visit their website.