Disjecta, 116 NE Russell, toxicavengerthemusikill.com, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sat 4 pm, through October 31, $15
Toxic waste is always getting bad press. Yes, our natural resources are fucked, but what about the good things we get from chemical pollutants? Like the time it transformed a scrawny health spa janitor named Melvin into a mop-wielding, crime-stoppin' superhero freak? That's the side of the story nobody wants you to hear. Luckily, a courageous theatrical adaptation of the cult classic The Toxic Avenger (1985) is celebrating all things toxic through the end of the month at Disjecta. A radioactive sludge of blush-inducing language, onstage dry humping, and the occasional glimpse of nudity (did that Valley girl just rip her shirt off? You bet she did!), Toxic Avenger: The Musikill makes being bad feel awfully good.
In the hands of schlock auteur Ira Kortum, who wrote, directed, and stars in the production, Avenger sticks pretty close to the terrain covered in the movie. Set in the fictitious Tromaville, New Jersey, a gawky janitor overcomes the dynamic duo of '80s movie adversity--social alienation and sexual frustration--after he's exposed to toxic waste. Also, he beats the living shit out of some bad dudes with a mop. But what makes the stage version of Avenger so inspired isn't the enduring nature of the narrative. It's the way the cast convincingly captures what made the original so great: they look like they are having a lot of fun, namely because they're participating in something so outrageously bawdy and silly. When a pack of post-apocalyptic preppies march in place and sing their C&W ode to Tromaville's social hierarchy ("Twerps and Pussies Know Your Place"), it's totally ridiculous, but it's also really, really funny. When the whole cast emerges to maniacally chant "TROMA, TROMA, TROMA," it doesn't really make any sense; it just adds to the sense of mayhem.
In fact, the actors implore the audience to participate in a Rocky Horror vein, which means you've got free reign to scream out the names of your favorite character or the drugs you took before showing up. In all, Avenger isn't the most substantive piece of theater you'll see this year, but it's high time your intellect got its schlock on.