If you’re a devotee of sophisticated, stylish and witty Noel Coward
drawing room comedies…check your theater listings for the production of
Private Lives nearest you. If, on the other hand, you’re a fan of Saturday
Night Live/Mad TV style outrageous over-the-top humor, Dead Bride
Running will be right up your alley.

Writers Rick Sparks and Alice Vaughn have concocted a mockumentary
“inspired by real events,” the tale of Jennifer Von Dart who runs out on
bridegroom John Jr. at her wedding rehearsal, leading to her arrest under
an archaic Florida law making it a capital crime for a bride to run away
from her wedding.  (What?)

Lights go up on two groups of battling protesters. On one side are hippie
liberals shouting for Jennifer’s release.  On the other are trailer trash
conservatives demanding she be fried (and we catch a glimpse of the
waiting electric chair). All are wearing bad wigs.  In fact, there are more
(hilariously) bad wigs in this production than you’ve probably ever seen on
a single stage.

We then meet the jailed lady in question, Jennifer herself, played by big-
eyed Tamara Zook, wearing a dazed expression in her “Marty Feldman
eyes.” “Time for your delousing,” deadpans the prison guard.

And we begin a Roshoman-like series of three very different flashbacks as
three characters recall the circumstances of Jennifer’s flight.

According to John, they met at a picnic when the Frisbee he threw
happened to connect with her face. With An Affair to Remember playing
in the background, we see a deliciously over-the-top video montage
(projected on a screen filling most of the upstage wall) depicting the
couple falling oh so romantically in love. There they are, on the beach, in
the park, making angels in the snow, as Karen Carpenter warbles Close to

According to Judith (Iscariot), the rejected would-be bridesmaid (who
was told that there was only room for fourteen), Jennifer and John met not
at a picnic but at a bowling alley.  In this version, Jennifer is a vixen
seductress, and thief, and the video montage shows the runaway bride
cavorting with male strippers in Vegas.

Finally, we see Jennifer’s own version of the events in question, and this
time she and John met playing golf.  Here, the video shows Jennifer
imagining her life as a lonely spinster cat lady, drinking 5-liter box wine
directly from the box and eating Friskies directly from the can, as Judy
Garland belts out The Man Who Got Away.

“Missing–$399.99 Reward” flyers are handed out to audience members. 
One picketer carries a “Don’t Forget Laci” sign. Newspaper articles
projected on the big screen have headlines in English (“Bitch On The Run”)
but if you look closely, the stories are written in Latin. This is but a sample of
the late-night TV brand of humor in Dead Bride Walking which may not be
everyone’s cup of tea, but which had me laughing out loud from start to

Oh, and there’s an unexpected (and well staged) musical production
number, right out of The Producers, which takes place about an hour into
the show on the bus to Vegas.  (I wouldn’t have minded a few more!)

Tamara Zook (Lost in Hollywoodland) is very funny indeed as the Dead Bride
Running. She’s funny even doing nothing, just gazing out into space with
a dazed bug-eyed stare.  John Jr. is brought to geeky life by the comically
gifted Craig Anton.  Zook and Anton are surrounded by some of the
funniest actors working in L.A., each portraying three or more characters. 
Denise Moses steals scenes as a tough prison matron and a dazed looking
blind girl.  Other standouts include Steve Hasley’s 6 foot tall distaff lawyer
Gloria Aldread, Robert Amore and Sirena Irwin as John Jr.’s trailer trash
parents, Kathy Jensen and David Trice as Jennifer’s very Christian parents,
Lisa Joffrey’s vengeful Judith, Mark Christopher Tracy as “Old Geezer” (yes,
that’s what everyone calls him), and Alice Vaughn as Nancy Face. Bobby
Charles Reed appears on video as Florida Governor Clem Clump, whose
brother is in the White House, and who refuses all pleas for clemency as he
gradually gets drunker and drunker.  Three of the women also get to play
members of pro-Jennifer protest group W.O.R.T. (Women on the Run) and
Amore and Hasley get to show off their hot bods as male strippers.

Special credit goes to A. Jeffrey Schoenberg for his many costumes, co-
writer director Sparks for his perfectly chosen musical soundtrack, Joni
Rudesil for those amazingly bad wigs, Sparks and Gary Bucciarelli for the
film flashbacks.

Rick Sparks, whose recent Twentieth Century, revived the comic style of
1930s Hollywood, does equally well at staging a much crazier type of
humor here.  Yes, some gags fall flat, but the zingers definitely outnumber
the ones which don’t zing. At 80 minutes without an intermission, Dead
Bride Running zips along, and if this type of very unsubtle humor is for you,
you’ll be laughing from start to finish.

The Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N Wilton Place, Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley                                               
September 13, 2007                                     
Photo: Ed Krieger

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