A gorgeous barker/ringmaster/dominatrix rises out of wooden box and asks the assembled audience: Do you want to find a date?  Sell your couch?  Engage in sexual fantasies?  Expose unspeakable secrets? She is soon surrounded by a band of loonies, including a woman wearing a saucepan as a hat—“It keeps the aliens out.” “Where are we?” you ask yourself, before realizing the obvious truth. We’re in the wacky world of Craigslist, as seen by Katie Goan and Nitra Gutierrez in their outrageously funny one-act, Kidnapped By Craigslist, now getting its West Coast Premiere in a snazzy production by the illustrious TheSpyAnts.

Craigslist, for those who’ve somehow managed to avoid the uber-popular website, is described by Wikipedia as a “central network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements–with jobs, internships, housing, personals, erotic services, for sale/barter/wanted, services, community, gigs, resume, and pets categories.”

What Wikipedia does not mention is just how downright weird some of these ads can be.  Kidnapped By Craigslist spotlights that weirdness in the most original of ways, especially as envisioned by imaginative director Lori Evans Taylor and her TheSpyAnts troupe of zanies.

Taylor stages Kidnapped By Craigslist in a carnival setting, and one enters carnival mode from the moment of entering the Elephant Lab Theatre lobby, where colored lights hang suspended from ceiling to walls in circus tent fashion and the concessions salesperson sports a red clown nose. Matt Maenpaa’s set design keeps the carnival going inside the theater, which is made to resemble the interior of a carnival tent, and by luscious Amy Motta, the abovementioned mistress of ceremonies, whip in hand and garbed in ringmaster’s jacket, fishnet stockings, and boots.

Over the course of the next hour, the audience is treated to dozens of bizarre actual postings, delivered as monologs or songs by a sensational cast of eight.  Here are just some of the folks on display:

•The “Please Don’t Touch” expectant mom (Addi Gaash), sick of all the questions about her pregnancy, especially about her baby’s sex and even more especially by people who just can’t keep their hands off her belly.
•The “Roaches” man (Scott Krinsky), an enraged exterminator ranting about the roaches in his apartment, then deciding the time for war has arrived.  Changing into guerilla fighter garb, he finds himself surrounded by similarly dressed humanoid roaches which he attacks to the strains of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

•The “I Love You, Leave My Butt Alone” lady, aka our ringmistress (Motta) stripped down to her undies singing her simple message (“I don’t like it when you stick things up my asshole.”) to a folksong beat. She is soon joined by a rainbow-clad choir backing her up with their “Wa Wa Woos.”
•The reclining, nearly naked “Y Tu Mama Tambien” gay man (Eric Bunton), who has just finished watching this Mexican movie and is clad only in a Hawaiian lei, doubtless to symbolize the Mexican lay he is in search of.

•The “I Farted” lady (Gaash again), whose message to her boyfriend is short and sweet: “I like you so much and I farted. Thank you for not saying anything.”
•The right shoe (Lane Maser dressed as one) looking for her “Sole Mate,” her left-shoe partner of five years who flew away while they were skydiving.

•The “Obsessed With Cake” lady (Dawn Merkel), accompanied by cake-hatted Marina Mouhibian and Danny Lopes, singing about her obsessive love for cake.
•The “Religious” couple (Gaash and Krinsky), who give Biblical responses (in song) to a host of questions based on scriptural prohibitions, such as the one in Deuteronomy 22:13-21.  “If I discover that my bride is not a virgin, the Bible demands that she be executed by stoning immediately. Should I kill her?”  Well, if the Bible says so, go ahead and do it.

Other gems include:

•A plea to the “dirty disgusting man” who during a subway ride pressed his erection against a female stranger’s behind. Says she, “Have the decency not to rest your genitals against my buttocks.”
•A complaint about the “asshole” who takes home everything he can (food, drinks, paper napkins, etc.) from whatever office function he attends.
•A message from a turbaned gay man to the naked boy in the apartment across the street. “If you’re going to lay there, finish the job, so some of us can get to sleep!”
•“Missed Connections”—messages to strangers whom Craigslist posters would like to meet again, such as “the woman who took and examined my stool sample.”
•A man who’s looking for a boyfriend named Roy or some variation of that name so that he can keep the “Roy” tattooed on his chest.
•The plugged-into-her-iPod, school-uniform-garbed teen girl who gets her kicks out of keying cars and never getting caught. She especially likes the new ones deliberately parked way away from others to avoid nicks and dents.

Not all the vignettes are played just for laughs. A series of “Confessions” manage to be both funny and sad at the same time, and the “Fun House” segment
is downright spooky, with our hostess surrounded by gloved hands and expressionless masks.

The Kidnapped By Craigs List cast couldn’t have a better or more uproariously nutty cast than Motta, Lopes, Bunton, Maser, Mouhibian, Gaash, Krinsky, and Merkel.  (The last three performers’ roles are multi-cast, with Shelby Kyle, David Goryl, and Megan Dolan certainly bringing their own gifts and quirks to the Craigslist nutcases.)

Director Taylor deserves a standing ovation for her oh-so-inventive staging, as much of what is seen and heard on the Elephant Lab stage is surely director-inspired. A striking example is the “human bed” in which the farting lady sleeps, with Mouhibian and Merkel as the bedposts and Lopes and Bunton as the pillows. Taylor is aided and abetted in her tasks by Adam Hunter’s excellent lighting and especially by Mouhibian’s dazzling array of costumes, with a special tip of the hat (or shoe) for the four-foot long green Skechers which Maser fits inside.

That our world is carnivalesque is made evident every day on TV (think Jerry Springer), in the supermarket checkout line (ever seen a copy of Weekly World News?), or on the Internet, with Craigslist being a prime example. Kidnapped By Craigslist is the perfect alternative to the overflow of Christmas-based entertainment on our local stages. Word of mouth could easily make this a cult hit. With Kidnapped By Craigslist, TheSpyAnts have once again proven themselves to be one of our most innovative, risk-taking, talented theater ensembles.

NOTE: At the performance I attended, the only thing as entertaining as the skits was TheSpyAnts company member Linc Hand’s infectious laugh in the seat just in front of mine.  (Perhaps he was an audience plant.)

The Elephant Lab Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
November 29, 2008
                                             Photos: Jeff  Ellingson

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