Moxie Theatre, that shining citadel of feminist drama, has crowned its tenth season with Javier Velasco’s Eternally Bad, an unrelenting salvo intended to send patriarchal religions cowering for mercy. Based on a script by Trina Robbins, Eternally Bad scours religions and cultures around the globe to demonstrate the range and potency of goddesses as they perform deeds both wondrous and scandalous.If your theatrical expectations require a linear, deftly plotted drama, this offering will not be your cup of tea. But if your sense of humor appreciates ironic juxtaposition, the spiffy pacing of a vaudeville review (well, most of the time), and the quick wit of improvisation, this sexy and at times salacious soufflé could prove a gourmet treat. Imagine a cadre of young women putting on a racy revue on the final night of a staunchly feminist summer camp and you have a clear notion of Moxie’s Eternally Bad.
Both Devlin and Melissa Fernandes have the divine prerogative down pat, issuing commands, defying convention, exacting revenge and changing course at whim. Fernandes’ racy Artemis with bow and arrow and her pushy, take-charge Lilith left indelible impressions, as did Devlin’s Jezebel in lurid red cocktail dress and Bette Davis sneer. Not to mention Devlin’s Bear Woman impersonation in fabulous fur coat.
For her portrayal of Osmatar, that obscure (at least to this writer) Norse divinity who invented beer, Rae K. Hendersen successfully mated whiny impatience with diligent experimentation, magically birthing a spate of cutesy forest creatures along the way who assisted her beverage discovery. Her Isis as a ditzy flapper—yes, we recall that the early 1920s saw a massive fad for everything Egyptian—with a nasal Brooklyn accent also left its mark.
To list all of the goddesses and their labyrinthine situations highlighted in Eternally Bad would unduly tax my memory, which means I need to confess that the dog ate my syllabus and required reading list for this upper division elective before I even had a chance to read it.
Erik Dugan and Michael Parrott worked overtime playing the inadequate lovers, stupid mates, and feckless accomplices needed to recount these divine sagas. Alternately batted about, turned into stone, eaten alive, and trampled upon, these actors raised patsy to new heights. And it was refreshing turnabout to view Dugan as the blond bimbo, initially lusted over by various divas, only to be quickly discarded like the proverbial used facial tissue. He spent much of the play shirtless and one scene everything-less.
With finesse and undeniable technical prowess, Candye Kane’s excellent songs surfed over a host of genres from torch song to blues, jazz, gospel, 1940s musical, barbershop, and John Denver ballad . I thought Devlin’s delectably preening ballad “That’s How Much I Mean to Me” and the rousing gospel ensemble “Rise Up!” were pick of the litter, but all of Kane’s tunes and Steve Gunderson’s campy arrangements provided sustaining musical muscle, especially when Velasco’s dramatic situations sagged into mere slapstick. The five voices formed a respectable ensemble, although Devlin’s sophisticated cabaret chops gave her songs that added emotional quotient that makes the listener want to purchase the cast recording. Parrott’s burly baritone also helped clinch a scene or two.
Kristen Flores’ fluid, no-nonsense scenic design accommodated the host of varied activities that raced and noodled across the wide Moxie stage; including digital screens on either side that projected David Scott’s adult cartoon depictions of each goddess in succession was brilliant—and especially helpful to those of us taking notes to prepare for the final exam. Kate Bishop’s costumes ranged from quite clever (see red Jezebel dress and Egyptian flapper references above) to basic to nothing at all (see Dugan reference, also above).
Jason Bieber’s lighting proved as functional as the scenic design, although softer lighting in the extended Pele scene would have made the flames appear more threatening.
Eternally Bad brought to mind that delightful 1963 hit “Our Day Will Come,” sung by Ruby Nash and the Romantics. At Moxie, the day has come for those spurned and overlooked goddesses. It’s time to burn some sage, do a few sacred incantations, and get over to Moxie to worship at their holy feet!
[themify_box style=”shadow” ]This review was based on the July 11, 2015 opening night performance. The production runs through August 2, 2015 at MOXIE Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N, San Diego, CA 92115. Performances given on Thursdays @ 7:00 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00 p.m., and Sundays @ 2:00 p.m.[/themify_box]