A demonic Raggedy Ann doll wreaks havoc on a pair of nurses in Sukie And Sue: Their Story, Michael John LaChiusa’s offbeat trifle of a horror movie spoof now playing at The Blank Theatre.

 Brunette Sukie (Lindsey Broad) works in the maternity ward, where daily contact with newborns gives her ample reason to be upbeat. Blonde Sue (Rae Foster) spends her days with burn patients, giving her equal reason to be downbeat. Fortunately, there’s Sukie’s stoner boyfriend Sal (Lenny Jacobson) to keep the girls amply supplied with weed, which the trio toke on pretty much nonstop. Still, whatever their faults or travails, “We’re nice people,” Sukie and Sue insist on more than one occasion. “We’re nurses.”

Then “Doll” arrives, an admittedly odd gift from Sue’s mother for her daughter’s twenty-seventh birthday, and before you can say “Chucky” (as in “Bride Of,” not “Cheese”), this Raggedy Ann reveals herself to the audience to be something other than the inanimate object she would seem to be.

 It’s not until Doll starts bleeding from the eyes that our heroines get the hint that something may be amiss with the raggedy Miss, reason enough to call in reinforcements—psychic Barbara (Mackenzie Phillips) and priest Father Canary (Eddie Driscoll). Completing the mix is hunky drug dealer Kelly (Nick Ballard), Bill to Lenny’s Ted, or Ted to Lenny’s Bill if you will.

As a horror movie spoof, Sukie And Sue: Their Story falls a bit flat. It’s not spooky enough (nor does the Blank’s budget allow any kind of horror flick-worthy special effects) to provoke anything more than a gasp or two. Neither is it spoofy enough to match say Re-Animator: The Musical’s inspired lunacy. In fact, with all the truly outstanding plays getting staged readings at the Blank’s Monday night Living Room Series (the recent Doesn’t Anyone Know What A Pancreas Is? comes to mind), this reviewer can’t help wondering if Sukie And Sue: Their Story would have made it to the Blank’s Second Stage without the name LaChiusa attached to it.

 Still I must admit to having enjoyed spending ninety minutes with the talented bunch of actors whom casting directors Scott David and Erica Silverman have assembled and with director Kirsten Sanderson keeping things moving swiftly on track.

As in last fall’s Crimes Of The Heart, Foster once again proves herself a star in the making, a Meg Ryan for the 2010s with her own fresh, quirky charm. A scene which has Sue blithely eating a sandwich while commenting on the weather as she pulls bandages from a burn patient’s skin grafts (with accompanying screams from said patient) is a particular treat.

Broad proves a terrific comic foil for Foster, and having the blonde-voiced brunette play the cheerier nurse opposite brunette-voiced Foster’s darker one makes their pairing all the more inspired.

 Shaggy-haired, scruffy-bearded Jacobson is so thoroughly believable as pothead Lenny that you might think the real deal had wandered in off the street to join in the offbeat fun. TV-star handsome Ballard plays delightfully against leading man type as “Dude, Where’s My Weed” dealer Kelly. Understudy Sarah Allyn Bauer provides solid support as Nurse Teri, and assistant stage manager Rachel Landis has a wordless unbilled cameo as a nameless nurse. (It’s anyone’s guess who’s under those burn victim masks.)

 A trio of seasoned vets complete the cast to memorable effect. Phillips makes for a drolly quirky Barbara with that signature delivery ’70s/’80s sitcom fans will recall from her teenaged days on One Day At A Time. Driscoll has great fun with the archetypical neighborhood priest, appearing first in black t-shirt and shorts and later in full Father Damian regalia, the better to exorcise those pesky demons. Mary-Beth Manning makes an eleventh-hour appearance as Sue’s mother Marjorie, made all the more effective by the actress’s resemblance to her stage daughter.

Eric Broadwater’s two-level scenic design makes maximum use of the Blank’s matchbox stage, morphing quickly from locale to locale with the aid of Stephanette Smith’s ingeniously designed lighting. Bethany Jane Bohatila’s costumes are character-appropriate choices. LaChiusa’s original music and Warren Davis’s sound design are nicely mood-setting. Matt Falletta has come up with some cleverly designed special effects, though not perhaps as bloody as horror movie fans might wish for. Fight choreographer Matt Turner stages a fun girl-on-girl tussle. Technical director/props master Stephen Weston gets special props for Father Canary’s portable exorcism altar. Liana Dillaway is stage manager.

Sukie And Sue: Their Story is produced by Matthew Graber, Daniel Henning, and Noah Wyle. Terena Cardwell, Ashley Key, Evan Martinez, Stephen Moffatt, Samantha Riffle, and Jason Weiss are associate producers.

With productions like this past year’s The Temperamentals, Dusk Rings A Bell, and The Cost Of The Erection, The Blank Theatre has further solidified its much deserved reputation as one of L.A. finest. While Sukie And Sue: Their Story isn’t at the same level as those recent hits, it nonetheless makes for ninety minutes of brightly-performed, oddball fun—with a gasp or two thrown in for good measure.

The Blank 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
May 4, 2012
Photos: Michael Geniac

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