THIS TOWN knows its way around an irreverent nostalgia stage production. In recent years, we’ve been tickled by theatrical renditions of the Swayze classic Road House and the perennial yuletide weird-fest Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, to name just two—both of them stuffed with ribald, winking hilarity.
But the formula that worked well in those productions was on shakier ground with Weekend at Bernie’s—a film slathered so thoroughly in ’80s raunch, weird excess, and suntan lotion it might have been hard to script anything other than a scratchy, dot-matrix printout of the original.
Happily, the production running through the end of this month at Old Town’s newish Siren Theater isn’t that. The comedy vets behind the play version of Bernie’s—a reprise of a 2013 production—meet the 1989 film’s freakish absurdity with plenty of their own, ratcheting its characters’ basic indecency by magnitudes. It is a vulgar delight.
The play follows the plunging moral spiral of Larry (Tony Marcellino) and Richard (Jason Rouse), a pair of number-crunchers who think they’ve struck the big time when they notice an irregularity in their firm’s finances. They’ve actually unwittingly stumbled on the graft of their drug-inhaling boss, Bernie Lomax, who quickly invites the guys up to his place in the Hamptons, but also attempts to have them rubbed out by the mob.
The mob, it turns out, is more concerned with Lomax—but when Larry and Richard find him deceased in his weekend home, they don’t want a debauched weekend to go to waste. Cue corpse water skiing.
Bernie’s svelte 70-minute script is packed with plotting, but doesn’t take as much advantage of the far-fetched human puppetry that the film’s known for. So while we know exactly how the gents got into their predicament, we don’t get to see it play out as much as we might like.
There’s some reason for that. Andrew Harris’ living Bernie is a toad-licking show-stealer, delightful in his Midtown hedonism. He’s hilarious dead, too, but it’s good to have him around and cursing as long as we do.
Once Lomax eats it, though, his mob-connected paramour Tina, played with insane abandon by Lori Ferraro, is there to bring the crazy. It’s an unhinged, delightful turn.
Most everyone in Bernie, in fact, does the job capably. For my money, though, the best parts of the short play are its sundry brief intermissions while the crew changes the set.
Head out this weekend and you’ll see what I mean.