--2 Great Shuster's Ghost
Sept. 24, 2017
John Hayes

Great Shuster's Ghost

August 30, 2010, 12:00 am
By Ramon Lovato
From its opening moments, when Zigmund Fraud (Scott Shuker) and Zin Van Del (EJ Regier) pop up through trapdoors in the floor and begin spouting heavily alliterated evil plans, the tone of the 2010 Fiesta Reefer Melodrama is set.

The Melodrama, a yearly Santa Fe Playhouse production for Fiesta de Santa Fe, takes all the happenstance, intrigue and idiosyncracies of a year in Santa Fe and satires it100 years in the past.

It's almost too much to envision the lovely and lewd Zoey Villa (Melissa Pippin-Carson) becoming as worn out and, dare I say, tired as Madeline Kahn's Lili Von Shtupp character in Blazing Saddles. And watching Juana Rolla Doobie (Shawna Howley/Helana Aguiar) become Fiesta queen through a history quiz reminiscent of Cheech & Chong's "Let's Make a Dope Deal" skit is an all-too-familiar reminder of just how absurd the whole Fiesta process can sometimes be.

Credits: John Hayes

The Mel Brooks shout-outs continue with Will Shuster (Ryan Kochevar), whose charming-but-bumbling mad scientist caricatures Gene Wilder's role in Young Frankenstein, itself a parody, and even takes a few musical queues as well [SFR Talk, Aug. 25: "Mellower Drama"].

"It's Gov. Richardson's swan song," co-director Eliot Gray Fisher said in a recent interview, and the character of Gov. Beard Richerman (played brilliantly by 14-year-old Tommy Roman), succeeds not only in legalizing marijuana "for medicinal purposes only" (as the audience is frequently, and facetiously, reminded) but also in using government funds to pad the pockets of his cabinet and almost running off to Cuba (the country, not the town).

It's an amusing, if borderline excessive, blend of political satire and good-natured Fiesta fun (as good melodrama should be), though not without its problems. The uproarious audience (which is encouraged, I might add) at times drowned out some of the quieter actors' lines, or the action on stage ground to an awkward halt as the cast was forced to await the end of a particularly boisterous fit of laughter. And the dance routines, while light-hearted and amusing, were still a bit rough around the edges. Still, for community theater, you work with what you can get.

Zozobra makes a cheerful appearance as a half-Frankenstein's monster, half-King Kong sideshow. And Shuster shouting "This is why we can't have nice things!" at the 25-foot papier-mché pot-reference when it kidnaps his love interest, Juana Rolla Doobie's not-quite-identical twin sister Maria Juana Doobie (Cristina Vigil), andget thisclimbs the bell tower of the St. Francis Cathedral earned some laughs.

Oh, and the Fiesta council was present. Watching the disco dance party for Juana's inauguration as Fiesta queen was both humorous and painful, but seeing the real Fiesta queen get lifted on stage to participate in the dance? Priceless.


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