Opening Nights: Vestal Virgins

What'd happen if Lifetime and Comedy Central had a baby.

No, the title doesn't refer to the high priestesses of Roman lore, but to a long-defunct '80s punk band brought together again to uncork a secret from the past. You know you're in for a bumpy ride when the Vestals' drummer appears onstage beating on the couch with a pair of drumsticks—and she can't keep time. Later we hear their signature hit, "Inside You, Inside Me," and the composer/guitarist can't strum and sing at the same time. Punk verisimilitude, purists may argue, since the Sex Pistols and Ramones were hardly virtuosos. But since it appears that these three musicians are handling their instruments for the first time, more than 20 years after forming their band, it kills suspension of disbelief right there. The premise of local playwright Marcy Rodenborn's dramedy, first performed at the 2003 Fringe Festival, is witty enough: A Miley Cyrus–esque pop diva called Little Nannakin (Samie Detzer) has discovered she was adopted, and she believes one of the Vestals could be her birth mother. Under the pretext of sampling their sole hit, she dispatches her manager Niko (Matthew Middleton) to gain the song rights and beseech lead singer Tsarina (Marty Mukhalian) to appear in a new video. Little Nannakin's detective work also involves setting up a giddy fan (Terri Weagant) to pose as a maid to spy on the group. The hilarity and hijinks revealed include lesbian affairs, unidentified sperm donors, and one Vestal keeping another's son as a sexual plaything. Under Doug Staley's direction, it's amusing to watch all these pie plates spinning toward some kind of resolution. Vestal Virgins is funny in fits and starts, dramatically resonant at others, but the show satisfies neither impulse fully. It winds up being a mashup of a Lifetime movie and a Comedy Central late-night oddity, a little bit sentimental and a little bit punk. Likewise, the performance quality is divided—even if they can't play music, the actresses can act. The standout is Weagant as Nan-fan Chloe; she really gets this material and romps with it, by turns starstruck, clumsily conniving, and heartbreaking in her loneliness. If everyone fit their roles as snugly, Vestal Virgins might realize the non-musical side of its potential.

 
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