Parodies are hard to master, especially when it comes to film and theatre. There are popular big screen comedies and live productions that pay tribute to particular genres. “Blazing Saddles” and Forbidden Broadway are just two examples. There are also notorious bombs, such as “Disaster Movie” and “Scary Movie V.” Playwright and actor, Jamie Morris, has built his career mocking well-known television series and movies featuring all male ensembles. His full-length send up, The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode, just closed at the Diversionary Theatre, and his “Silence of the Lambs” takeoff entitled The Silence of the Clams is currently playing at the predominantly LGBT performance space.
Morris’ script follows the plot of the Academy Award winning picture fairly closely, with comedic twists. Clarise (Chad Peterson) is a naïve and dopey FBI agent in training looking for the bizarre killer, Beaver Bob (Morris). She is asked by Mr. Crawford (Logan O’Neill) of the Beureau’s Behavioral Science Unit to seek help from the notorious cannibal, Hannibal (Morris). As the relationship between the recruit and the murderer grows, Clairce wants aid from Hannibal in finding Bob before he takes another victim’s life.
Many major sequences from the thriller are referenced, from the confrontations between Clarise and Hannibal to the infamous dancing Bill scene. Even Brian Sabowski’s lighting pays tribute to the motion picture during the dimly lit climax.
With so many nods to the original feature, there are times where Morris’ plot leans heavily towards homage, which can temporarily make the tale seem like a retelling of the flick. This was not the case with The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode, since that satire had a completely original storyline not influenced by any particular episodes. The upside is that it is fun to watch famous scenes lovingly recreated, while incorporating Morris’ irreverent humor.
If The Silence of the Clams is less ambitious than the sitcom send-up, there are still just as many laughs to be had during the evening. A lot of the show has R rated jokes that would make “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone smile. The raunchy title is an indicator of the lowbrow situations in store for audience members. Theatregoers who thought The Vagina Monologues had too many references to female private parts will be gasping at the numerous terms used by the artists.
Morris does feature visual gross outs, which might be cringe inducing for some. As the evening goes on, the sight gags, under Christopher Kenny’s direction, become more hysterical mixing wit with shock value.
San Diegans will be happy to know that there are consistent shout outs to America’s Finest City. Though Colorado is used as an important plot point, Balboa Park has a cameo in the video projection introduction that honors the opening credits to “The Silence of the Lambs.”
The funniest laughs come from ridiculously random situations. A highlight is Clarise forcing Bob to do the hokey pokey and the “time warp” dance, from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” performed at gunpoint. These wacky situations hit the bullseye due to Morris’ writing and the comedic work from the cast.
Peterson and O’Neill primarily portray Clarise and Mr. Crawford and neither fully mimic Jodie Foster or Scott Glenn’s performances. They are more interested in getting spectators to crack up as often as possible; and Peterson and O’Neill accomplish their task in spades.
The one actor who deliberately emulates a character from “The Silence of the Lambs” is Morris as Hannibal. He nails Anthony Hopkins’ physical mannerisms and sometimes sounds similar to the Oscar winning thespian. Morris is no less comically gifted as the other ensemble members, but he adds menace to Hannibal, which creates unexpected tension during the 75-minute event.
Unabashedly campy and filled with sidesplitting nonsense,The Silence of the Clams is another edgy achievement from Morris. Be sure to get tickets soon, because Hannibal plans on escaping his University Heights prison after May 2.