FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – Totally out of character, totally off the wall, totally comedic energy – whatever – “Not Even Remotely Virtual” is a product of COVID-19 for Northern Sky Theater.
The professional troupe based in Door County normally creates original musicals with strong Wisconsin themes.
But this is not a normal time, and the company has loosened the reins for a collection of Wisconsin creators to have at the “Frankenstein” story and let imaginations fly.
Much turns around the pandemic.
A goal is to have us coming out of that creature laughing. It works for me in quirky ways.
The premise is the fictional Little Theater in the Park has a $250,000 grant to produce an elaborate musical, “Frankenstein: The New Modern & Musical Prometheus.” The cast is to be 40, and the set and all to be huge with the top-notch technology. The problem is COVID-19 has come along, and the two guys who dreamed up the show have to beam their baby from an apartment room playing all the characters with makeshift props and set work.
That is to say, “Not Even Remotely Virtual” is purposely awful/comically awful.
The performance level of Alex Campea and Doug Clemons is nuclear – the acting, singing, dancing and story/costuming/props mayhem. Everything fits the definitions of “camp” and “over the top.”
The show is being done live online nightly to June 3. Access is via northernskytheater.com.
The story-in-a-story-in-a-story follows Dr. Frankenstein’s quest to build a perfect man through his mad science and the assistance of Igor, a hunchback. Alex Campea portrays Victor Frankenstein, and Doug Clemons is Igor and everybody else – notably marriagable Elizabeth and the villagers.
Side trip: The villagers are finger puppets, with Doug Clemons able to do something special that I can’t. He can wiggle his ring finger fully by itself without getting any action from the little or middle finger. (Watching a show closeup on a computer has some advantages).
The “Frankenstein” story – the castle, a laboratory, a cemetery, “crowd” scenes, etc. – is stuffed in a room that has a bit of interest, too. The apartment seems to be of the 1910s, if not earlier.
Direction is by Nadja Simmons. My impression of that work: She has fired off a shotgun with Alex Campea and Doug Clemons as the bb’s – KABOOM! – wow, look at that, and it’s top caliber.
All kinds of side stuff is part of the show. First, the characters go about preparations not knowing the camera is on. One is on his cellphone trying to find out whether his father is watching, and he ends the call blurting, “Oh, this is Alex,” which is a way-out bit of humor.
The creative committee led by Richard Carsey, Stephen Kovacs and Corrie Beula Kovacs maneuvers in the not only the desperation of the characters to pull off their show but added touches about their personalities. A kind of reality is mashed in when the two actors argue and one professes, “Vanity? This is artistry.”
And there is knowing self-teasing near the end when the character played by Doug Clemons says, “We did something like a performance.”
Sight gags, verbal gags, grandiose singing, malaprops, costuming fakery, double-takes, duet dancing, breathless pacing – they’re all there, in spades.
One of the songs is “We’ll Take a Leap.”
Creative: Book, music and lyrics – Richard Carsey and Stephen Kovacs; story – Richard Carsey, Corrie Beula Kovacs and Stephen Kovacs; director/stage manager – Nadja Simmonds; props, costumes, lighting and scenic design – Nadja Simmons, Alex Campea, Doug Clemon; audio design and technical support – Stephen Kovacs; music tracks and music direction – Richard Carsey; logo design – Bill Vandermause
Chris Mezog – Doug Clemons
Alex Hardt – Alex Campea
Running time: One hour, five minutes
Remaining performances: 7 p.m. June 1, 2, 3
AHEAD: Live, in-person performances of “Not Even Remotely” will be presented indoors in Gould Theatre July 12-Aug. 7.