Fatty Arbuckle


June 5 - 28, 1997

The Moist Towlettes
(Shana Sussman, Danielle Surrette & Tara Beth Connoly)

The tragi-comic story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe, the young starlet
whose untimely death while attending one of Fatty's infamous partys brought down
Hollywood's highest paid performer.  A bizarre musical comedy, the story unfolds
using elements from Punch and Judy to Alice in Wonderland and set against the
backdrop of a Vaudevillian  romp.


Fatty - Jonathan Goldstein
Alice - Piper Henry
Queen - Shelley Wenk
Punch - Ben Currier
Judy - Alix Goodwin
Momma - Marty Yu
Crocodile - Al Reynolds
Cop/Mamba - David P. Moore
TweedleDee - Phil LaMarr
TweedleDum - Dan Etheridge
Wavy - Shana Sussman
The Moist Towlettes - Tara Beth Connoly,  
Danielle Surrette
Crooner - Andreas Olavarria
Script Girl - Sharon MacMenamin
March Hare - Kelly Hawthorne
Mad Hatter - Adam Bitterman

Production Staff
Written by Chris Jeffries
Directed by John Sylvain
Musical Direction by Jonathan Goldstein
Production Stage Manager - Daintry Jensen

Set and Costume Design by M.E. Dunn
Lighting Design by Jason Bloom
Prop Master - Rik Keller
The Band
Keyboards - Joel Zighelboim
Guitar - Jonathan Dyke
Bass - Gene Lushtak
Drums - Ben Currier



    The Fatty Arbuckle Spookhouse Revue begins with a playful kazoo quartet and barrels from there into a sinister, vaudevillian bacchanal of gallows humor.
    Chris Jeffries' brilliant musical tells the tragic Fatty Arbuckle/ Virginia Rappe legend through a surreal narrative set in a 1920's cinematic wonderland, with Alice (Piper Henry) as the alluringly naive starlet. Fatty (Pierre Fromage) and his Thespian ensemble careen Alice through smarmy pleasures, substance abuse, and other debaucheries, until the initially pristine girl is roughened and wizened by her lasciviousness in the clamor for stardom, then met with a grisly fate at the hands of her desires.

    Skillfully using the violence and social commentary, subtle and otherwise, in such immortal bits as Punch and Judy (Ben Currier and Alix Goodwin, respectively), director John Sylvain and cast fashion a fairy tale of their own seamless design. The story's elements, all bleak and comic, run in an apparently haphazard direction, but the underlying plot is never lost, and the brazen tangents -- a football game/orgy/football game/orgy (see it -- you won't believe it, but you'll get it), and a sodden, yodeling musical bit with Andreas Olavarria's enchanting crooner's repertoire -- actually give the Arbuckle/Rappe story more resonance.

    It's the Sacred Fools Theater's premiere Los Angeles production, and it delivers amazing performances; foppish, baggy costumes (designed, along with the set, by M.E. Dunn) which expertly bespeak the play's content, and a flawless live band (Joel Zighelboim, Jonathan Dyke, Gene Lushtak, and Ben Currier) providing the gay and lurid melodies. It's a relentless assault --one that may leave you repulsed, but positively unable to contain your laughter.
    - Ken Pfeil, 1997 Backstage West

    This production is the maiden effort from the Sacred Fools Theater Company, and it is by no means a timid one. Using elements of "Alice in Wonderland" and puppet theater such as "Punch and Judy" to retell the tale of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's downfall, the production, complete with music and dance numbers, demands your attention. It also, unfortunately, never quite rewards that attention with a strong, cohesive plotline.

    Using allegorical characters from the aforementioned works, the play attempts to tell the story of Virginia Rappe, a starlet who dies after being allegedly assaulted by Arbuckle during a weekend spree in San Francisco. Arbuckle was tried for her death and, after four trials, eventually was acquitted. By that point, however, his career was in ruin and he never completely recovered, dying a few years later. Several books have researched the entire case to a fare-thee-well, with none of the players coming out completely clean. It has been largely surmised, however, that Ms. Rappe was far from the innocent she claimed to be, and Arbuckle was, more than anything else, a victim of his own poor judgment with regard to party planning.

    In this effort, however, Rappe is painted as downright virginal, while Arbuckle is demonized to an alarming extent. The two are played by Pierre Fromage and Piper Henry, both of whom put across convincing and heartfelt performances despite the one-dimensional level of their characters. Actually, everyone on stage does the same, investing themselves completely in their portrayals. Shelley Wenk does a very nice turn as the Queen, prowling and chewing up scenery in grand style. Phil LaMarr and Dan Etheridge are comical and appropriately whacky as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, as are Kelly Hawthorne and Adam Bitterman as the March Hare and the Mad Hatter (in this instance, representing silent stars on the fade). Ben Currier, Alix Goodwin, David P. Moore, Martin Yu and Alan Reynolds are wildly over the top, and funnily so, and the various puppet characters in the "Punch and Judy" segments, while Shana Susman, Danielle Surrette and Tara Beth Connolly have a lot of fun as flapper/ dancer gals. Andreas Olavarria as the Crooner and Sharon MacMenamin as the Script Girl also are interesting, in that they take small parts and make them memorable. It's a big cast on a small stage, and John Sylvain deserves much credit for keeping everyone moving at a frenetic but controlled pace throughout. Ditto musical director Jonathan Goldstein, who along with his band (Joel Zighelboim, Jonathan Dyke, Gene Lushtak, and Ben Currier) kept the music bright and lively throughout, even making the darker numbers trot along appropriately. Jason Bloom's lighting design is very effective, particularly when evoking the eerier moments of the production. Set design and costumes also work throughout. Chris Jeffries, who wrote the entire shebang, has tackled a personage and time period with verve and gusto, succeeding sporadically.

    The Alice concept works better than the Punch one, and interchanging the two throughout often is confusing, particularly for audience members who don't know the full story and didn't have time to read the rather lengthy program notes. And the attempt to link Alice (Virginia Rappe) to the Virginia of "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" really perplexes more than it compares "the suffering of all Virginias." The writing is solid, however, especially in the songs, most notably the Queen's homage to the lusty Hollywood. All said and done, there's an interesting concept to be found here, but it requires more digging than it should. If nothing else, however, the show's an interesting mix of music and theater that isn't often done, and deserves recognition for that feat.
    - Joe Morris, 1997 DramaLogue

1997 DramaLogue Awards
For Outstanding Acheivement in Theatre

award_trophy2.gif (893 bytes) MUSICAL DIRECTION - Jonathan Goldstein