Randy Zebras at Play

Sgt. Rigsby’s latest inspiration trashes time.

Is A Terrible Price for Whimsy a radio play come to life? Well, yes. Is it a spoof on matinee movie serials from the '40s? Um, sure. It's also a tricked-out cross-pollination of shadow puppetry and pre-vaudeville street theater that's conceptually a kiddie show and simultaneously raunchier than a Kim Kardashian party tape.Presented under the pseudonym of Sgt. Rigsby and his Amazing Silhouettes, Whimsy is the second Scot Augustson play this year produced by Printer's Devil Theater and the latest installment in the ongoing adventures of Augustson's hero-unaware, boy inventor Roscoe Riley. On the surface, there's a morality fable delivering that familiar finger-wagging lecture used most recently to chasten Peter Parker in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility." And all that moralizing makes sense to young Roscoe, who's just invented a time-cycle that he and his pup Scrappers will use to pedal back into history. But things start to get a little blurry once Roscoe partakes of the housekeeper's tequila balls (improvised during a momentary rum shortage) and decides to take his pet pooch on a drunken joyride through time.Mary Todd Lincoln is transformed into a murderous First Lady, and there are run-ins with JFK, Alexander the Great, Winston Churchill, and an unsuspecting Baby Jesus whose newly altered biography now includes being buggered by a randy zebra. It's entirely plausible that Augustson simply tossed nouns, verbs, and situations into the air and stitched them together at random, but his is an inspired madness. He's like an air traffic controller making sure that all collisions are planned and that his plot (boy destroys history, boy restores timeline in true heroic fashion) maintains just enough forward velocity to remain aloft until a safe landing can be arranged.All this happens on the scrim of a Victorian-era mobile stage that looks as though Professor Marvel just sold it to Sgt. Rigsby at auction. The rest of the action takes place stage left, where actors seated under desk lamps deliver an assortment of dialects and accents to breathe life into the stick figures cavorting behind the scrim. There are intermittent "commercials" and public-service interludes about fictitious STDs, and at times it seems likely the actors are having more fun than the audience. They all play multiple roles: Stephen Hando is hysterical as Roscoe (at many ages) and also provides the voice of a singing chicken named Jenny. Keri Healey is the homicidal Mrs. Lincoln, Shannon Kipp is Roscoe's nemesis, Eye Patch McGregor (as well as the aforementioned zebra), and Evan Mosher is Augustson's dependable straight man, whose shining moment comes when alternate-reality Scampers gets to say exactly what he thinks of his master.The puppeteers (Augustson is one, Ben Laurance the other) are in a mad dash to illustrate the action, darting from one scrim to either of the other two smaller portholes on their makeshift medicine-show wagon (a delight in itself, and designed by Jeff Cook). Director Tom Milewski keeps the pace tight and the mood light, while Patti West and Robin Maccartney maintain an air of kitschy magic by manipulating stage lights and sound. Whimsy is a sinful Yuletide treat for randy zebras everywhere.stage@seattleweekly.com

 
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