ARTS

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October 29, 2002

James and the Giant Peach, now live on stage

Inequity Theatrical Collaboration has put on a menagerie of theatrical whimsies with its recent production of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. However, it seems that Inequity has resurrected this timeless classic of children's literature for rather suspect reasons. Let's just say that this production is not one to bring the kiddies to. However, if you take your absurdity with a dose of profanity and references to recreational drugs, this one is for you.

Dahl's original story has been modified to some extent. Don't worry, the little orphan James Trotter's parents are still murdered by angry rhinoceroses. But instead of being raised by his evil Aunt Spike and Aunt Sponge, James is raised by two transvestite hookers.

These two shady characters are fond of beating up their little innocent nephew and saying things such as "go suck your own head." Hmm. It seems like they might've left a little more to the imagination there.

Furthermore, the 10,000 crocodile tongues that James receives from the old beggar, which you remember from reading the book when you were 12, have been conveniently turned into bits of marijuana leaf. The giant insects spend the rest of the show telling the audience how much they enjoyed eating the small green tongues.

In case you were wondering, the giant peach is turned into a sexual metaphor. A long description of James entering the sticky, hairy tunnel of the peach is followed by a reference to Aunt Spike's you-know-what.

The saving grace of the show is the musical numbers. The character of the centipede, played by Ryan Lawrence, does a remarkable number about the nasty things he likes to eat, including "noodles made from poodles." This was certainly a highlight.

At several points in the play, the characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience. This is perfectly acceptable, nearly cliché. But it might have been done with more subtlety. At one point, the narrator (who periodically reads directly from a script) exclaims, "I'm the narrator, not the patch-the-holes-up-in-the-story bitch."

So, maybe the original script could have used a little bit more work. As the earthworm (played by Ryan Hall) says to the centipede, "You may have segmented eyes, but you ain't got shit in the foresight department." A little foresight would have been healthy.

But how can I criticize? Certainly, more than anything, this production was an excuse to drink beer. The inside cover of the program reads, in part, "the production will last approximately one hour so make sure you have enough beer."

The final reprise, in fact, is what one may term "Ode to Beer." The actors sing in chorus—and here I paraphrase—"I hope you enjoyed the show, because you're not going to get your money back/… And we're going to spend your money on beer." For five dollars, it was good enough that I didn't have to be drunk to watch it.