ALL NIGHT LONG Theater Review
Genre spoofs are among my favorite type of productions, the paragons being Mel Brooks’ parodies, such as his loopy lampooning of the Western in Blazing Saddles. In John O’Keefe’s wonderfully wildly witty and wry All Night Long the conventions of 1950s/1960s sitcoms such as The Donna Reed Show are raked over the comedic coals as America’s nuclear family is exploded.
In John O’Keefe’s wonderfully wildly witty and wry All Night Long the conventions of 1950s/1960s sitcoms such as The Donna Reed Show are raked over the comedic coals as America’s nuclear family is exploded.
Ironically, before the eponymous Reed starred as the squeaky clean housewife Donna Stone in her 1958-1966 situation comedy, she won an Academy Award for portraying a prostitute in the 1953 classic From Here to Eternity. But this only seems to buttress O’Keefe’s parodying portrait and point that beneath the surface of the all-American family’s façade lurks a surreal world of urges, as the instinctual id clashes with the repressive superego.
In Long Alina Phelan (who previously played a feisty frontierswomen, the not-so-darling Clementine McGraw in a stage spoof of Westerns, Rio Hondo, and co-starred with Tania Verafield in For the Love Of (The Roller Derby Play), both at the Theatre of Note) plays its wife and mother Jill. So naturally her husband is named Jack (Phillip William Brock, who resembles Ned Beatty). Of course, together they have America’s statistically obligatory 2.5 children.
The .5 refers to Terry (Cat Davis, who has performed on the Here/ Queer Comedy Tour), a character of not only indeterminate gender but of species - living in a sort of cubbyhole behind a modern stainless steel fridge (that seems out of place in this period piece), it’s unclear whether Terry is a kind of outer space alien, robot or a mere mortal after all. John Patrick Daley portrays the son with the sitcom-ish name of Eddy - think Leave It To Beaver’s rascally Eddie Haskell (hey, I was actually named after a 1950s’ TV personality). His sister, too, has a pop culture moniker par excellence - Tammy (Caroline Klidonas).
In this uproarious satire that rips the veneer off of the so-called traditional family, both of the high school students, Eddy and Tammy, grapple with their emerging sexuality. When O’Keefe wrote Long a long time ago during the sexual revolution of the relatively uninhibited 1970s his suggestions of mother-son and father-daughter dalliances may have been seen in another context. But today audiences are more likely to condemn this parent-child hanky-panky as forms of abuse and molestation in this revival. Indeed, one of the most jarring sequences in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 opening September 21 is a disturbingly creepy segment with the despicable Donald nappropriately touching and verbally lusting after his daughter Ivanka. Gag me with a spoon!
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The humor in Long is biting - it’s not well meaning, as in say screwball comedies like Howard Hawks’ 1938 Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn or Marx Brothers’ classics, so full of joie de vivre. Rather, the quite demented Long’s jokes tend to stick in your throat as America’s nuclear families turn radioactive.
Veteran helmer Jan Munroe deftly directs his excellent ensemble and also created a superb set. The clever play includes some special effects and sight gags - keep yer peepers peeled.
Insomniacs and those who enjoy their comedy to be bittersweet and full of sometimes venomous fun as it debunks shibboleths and phoniness are likely to love Long a Long Time. Most of the opening night audience, including yours truly, laughed throughout this strange, bizarre two-acter full of twists and turns. For fans of genre-busting, it’s all in the family in All Night Long, as America’s conventional family gets fisted by Open Fist Theatre Company’s revival of O’Keefe’s wacky whirlwind.
All Night Long runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 7:00 p.m. through Oct. 21 at Atwater Village Theatre, , 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village, CA 90039. Free parking at the Atwater Xing lot a block south of the theater. Reservations: www.openfist.org; (323)882-6912.
L.A.-based criticEd Rampell is co-author/author of four movie film history books, including “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book” (see: https://mutualpublishing.com/product/the-hawaii-movie-and-television-book/ ).