Theatre Review: “The Boy in the Basement” at White Rabbit

Last Thursday night I drove to the White Rabbit Cabaret in the Fountain Square neighborhood on the near south side of Indianapolis to see the full-length version of the hugely popular 2010 Indy Fringe comedy, “The Boy in the Basement.”   It was written by Katharine Heller and first produced at the 2008 New York Fringe Festival.  Here in Indianapolis, it was directed by Callie Burk and produced by the Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project.  Wisdom Tooth’s artistic producing director is Ronn Johnstone. 

Because of its popularity at the IndyFringe last month (every single performance was sold out), “The Boy in the Basement” has received an extended run of three Thursday night performances at the White Rabbit in September.  (There are two performances left.)

What the Show is About –

A male writer publishes steamy romance novels under a female pseudonym.  When we meet him, he is hard at work on his next bodice-ripper.  We watch the story unfold on the stage of his mind and relish it along with him as he scribbles it down into his notebook.

The plot of his romance novel is this:  Four beautiful female college students are sharing a house.  One night they surprise a handsome male burglar as he is trying to steal their television set.  In spite of the fact that he has violated their home, they are each attracted to him, so instead of calling the police, the four young women decide to chain up the young man in their basement for the weekend and take turns “punishing” him themselves, each in her own way.  They, and he, are unprepared for the affect he has on each of them.

Artistic Considerations –

According to www.theboyinthebasement.com, this play grew out of a romance novel that the playwright wrote for fun after scoring a whole box of paperback romances for 25 cents at a garage sale when she herself was a college student scrounging for apartment furnishings.  The script both spoofs the stereotypes and respects the appeal of these handy little escapes from reality.  The show made me want to try again to write a romance novel of my own.

In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed both a) the version of the show that survived the cuts and other creative decisions needed to make the show fit the Indy Fringe’s strict 60-minute limit and b) the longer, original version that the same cast and crew are offering for the next two Thursday nights at the White Rabbit.   

I think it must be hard to first learn a show a certain way, then re-learn a shortened, tightened version of it, perform it that way six times, and then learn it again with all of the original lines and bits reinstated for three more performances.  None of that stress showed in the performance Thursday night, though.  It seemed as solid as if the actors and crew had always done it that way.

So…it was fun and interesting to be able to compare the two versions as separate but equal pieces of performance art, if that makes sense.

The longer version includes some additional funny lines and bits but also an intermission.  This gives you time to stretch your legs, buy a second drink, and try to ask the bartender for more of his spicy nuts with a straight face.  The set is a little more spread out in the White Rabbit space and includes an additional set piece or two.  The biggest difference, though, is the pacing.  It was much more leisurely at the White Rabbit last Thursday night.  I missed the snappy, almost frenetic pacing of the compressed IndyFringe version, but I enjoyed the leisurely version, too. 

The actors are sexy and funny in both versions.  There was no paper program for either version, but according to the www.boyinthebasementindy.com website, Leah Dewit plays the sweet, virginal Anna, who brings the Boy in the Basement cookies and consults with her stuffed unicorn about whether it’s wrong to be thinking of kissing him.  Carrie Fedor plays the scary-hot Venezuelan dominatrix, Xandra, who stuffs her black lace panties in the prisoner’s mouth in preparation for spanking him.  Niki Hurrle Warner plays the voluptuous, hippie-dippy tantric earth woman, Aurora.  And director Callie Burk plays sexually-confident, no-nonsense Clarissa, who refuses to feel guilty about having had over 400 sexual partners so far.

Alex Oberheide Lance, aka the Boy in the Basement. 

(9-18-10 update:  Someone said in an anonymous comment to this post that the actor’s name is actually Matt Goodrich, not Alex Oberheide.  Because the comment was anonymous, I have emailed the show’s director to confirm.  In the meantime, whoever he is…

9-19-10 update:  Director Ronn Johnstone confirmed by email:

Your anonymous tipster is correct. Matt took the role over from Alex
after the fringe closed. Alex is at UCLA now starting his MFA work–and
we wish him the best!
)

With his movie star smile, his swimsuit calendar body, and the uniquely sensitive gifts of his personality, he becomes something different for each of these women, something they didn’t even know they needed, something that no man has ever been able to give them before…

(See?  Wouldn’t it be fun to write like this on a regular basis?)

But much as I enjoyed looking at Lance’s bare chest and imagining along with the four housemates the details of what was making that bulge in his zipper, for me the real hottie of the show is the scruffy Writer, played by Dave Pelsue.  First of all, he shyly sits off to one side at his desk but you can tell he is as turned on as his characters are as he reads their story aloud to us.  (Reading aloud is a powerful form of foreplay, is it not?)  And when the Writer bounds into the audience to describe a certain passionate, core-shaking kiss, the actor seems to know exactly where the closeted cougars are.  He generously holds their hands or sits on their laps to let them experience the thrill of that kiss even more deeply.

Whether he sits on your lap or not, in addition to wondering about his bulge, you can wonder where his many tattoos begin and end.

Daniel Robert is a hoot as both Clarisse’s arrogant gamer “boyfriend” and Xandra’s jealous Venezuelan ex-boyfriend.  Molly Tucker is a hoot in her visible role as assistant stage manager and as Girl 1, 2, and 3 in the story.

I don’t know who to give credit to for the mostly scant costumes, which fit the characters’ personalities perfectly, or the cleverly flexible and portable set design, or the helpful lighting design, or the sound design, which includes some funny sound effects as well as funny mood music.  (According to the website, the music is by John’s Body.)  Kat Warner is the stage manager.

This piece is pure fluff, but I felt as satisfied as the Writer did when he announced, “The End.”

Audience and appeal factors –

This very affordable ($8 per ticket) comedy is for die-hard romance readers that can laugh at their beloved genre, plus any adults that are in the mood for a light but sexy, funny spoof.   There is plenty of eye candy for all.

Because of the explicit sexual content – not to mention that it is now being offered in a nightclub – this show is only for adults.

Box Office –

Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project’s production of “The Boy in the Basement” runs two more Thursday evenings (9/16/10 and 9/23/10) at 8pm at the White Rabbit Cabaret, 1116 Prospect Street, Indianapolis, IN 46203.  Park on the street and purchase tickets (cash only, I think) at the door.  Try to get there early so that you can sit near the front.  Or at least be sure to find a seat that allows you to see the floor of the set.  A lot of sexy grappling goes on down there during this show.

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and www.twitter.com/indytheatre

P.S. – I’m sorry there is no photo to accompany this post.  Ronn Johnstone did send me an Adobe file of the gorgeous show poster designed by Cameron Bourquein of www.manifestrealitydesign.com but I couldn’t figure out how to re-size it for my blog.  I can’t stop to learn how to work with Adobe right now because I have two more reviews to write but I have added “Learn Adobe” to my Indy Theatre Habit to-do list for the future.  Thanks anyway, Ronn!

2 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “The Boy in the Basement” at White Rabbit”

  1. EDIT: for the White Rabbit performances, the “boy” in the basement is actually played by Matt Goodrich, not Alex. Much better choice, in my opinion.

  2. Thanks very much for the heads-up! I always appreciate it when a reader lets me know about a factual error in one of my reviews.

    Because you commented anonymously, I have emailed the show’s director to confirm the actor’s name. In the meantime I have made a note in the body of the review, too.

    Whoever the actor is, he does a great job in this show!

Leave a Reply