Denim Doves, written by Adrienne Dawes, is billed in the Sacred Fools press release as a “feminist farce (with music),” an apt enough description, but the show goes wildly beyond that. It is a scrumptious, in-your-face satire that might make its ancestors, Beyond the Fringe and Monty Python, green with envy. Denim Doves is spiced with rudeness and a fearless use 0f language, all powered by an extraordinarily dedicated cast of players who, under the demanding direction of Rosie Glen-Lambert, throw caution to the wind, playing with balls-to-the-wall foolhardiness in a damn-the-torpedoes, swing-for-the-fences dedication.
The storyline merits the term farce with a plotline that has a whiff of The Handmaid’s Tale. It features many silly rituals hilariously taken very seriously by the characters. Its comic religiosity may very well offend some people. In a time not-now, in a “modest compound nestled in the woods,” five sister wives (Janellen Steininger, Meg Cashel, Jennie Kwan, Lana Rae Jarvis, and Teri Gamble), all garbed entirely in denim down to their skivvies and with hairdos braided down their backs, perform ceremonies centered around their male leader, Penis (Corey Walter Johnson), a feckless man-child who has no notion of the actual function of sexual congress, even though he is supposed to get children by each one of his wives. His nephew, First Son (Tyler Bremer) is even more of an infant than his uncle, his “room” consisting of a giant crib. He is demanding and whiney, clinging to his mother, First Wife (Ms. Steininger), demanding food and crawling into bed with her. The little compound is under the rule of the Prophet (Miss Barbie-Q, who also serves as Interpreter 1 for the audience), a demanding, unseen ruler who keeps tabs on the various flocks with electronic snoopers that monitor the activities of the innately unruly females. Screens that hang above the stage display instructions and report any non-compliance. Eventually an infant does come into the compound. She grows up to be Joan (Angelique Maurnae, who doubles as Interpreter 2).
A wild card shows up in the person of Sixth Wife (Evangeline Crittenden). Tall, with punkish blond hair, she upsets whatever tranquility prevailed in the cloister leading to Prophet intervention, crisis, climax and dénoument.
There is quite a lot of music in the show with lyrics by Cyndi Williams, original music and arrangements by Ellen Warkentine (including adaptations of music by Erik Seacrest). Each audience member is given a kind of hymnal or prayer book and is encouraged to participate in some of the early songs. Indeed, there is quite a bit of audience/cast interaction, with the players roaming up the stairs and engaging individuals with banter and more. I myself had to put down my pencil and shake hands with a character. I felt blessed in an odd way. And there is a lot of vigorous, hilarious dancing choreographed by Darla MacDonald. Denim Doves is well served by a creative staff that includes scenic designer Lex Gernon, lighting designer Joey Guthman, costume designer Rebecca Carr, sound designer Lily Sorenson, projection designer David Murakami and assistant projection designer Sam Clevenger, prop designer Lisa Anne Nicolai, fight choreographer Laura Napoli and hair and makeup artist Angela Santori Merritt.
From time to time, the show occasionally loses its momentum, which is more likely a script problem than a directorial or cast problem, a small quibble in an otherwise engaging romp. Perhaps this production may not be the definitive version.
Produced by Tifanie McQueen, Amir Levi and associate producer Richard Levinson, Denim Doves plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm through February 17 on The Broadwater Main Stage at Sacred Fool Theater Company, 1076 Lillian Way in Los Angeles.