COURTESY DAVID WILSONFrom left

COURTESY DAVID WILSONFrom left

Theatre Rhino camps it up with ‘Battle of Midway’

If you’re wondering why a gay theater would present a musical about a World War II battle for a tiny island in the Pacific — what’s gay about it, right?–writer-director John Fisher, Theatre Rhinoceros’ artistic director, wrote the answer right into his script: “It’s campy!”

Campy it is, and silly, and full of gay-lesbian innuendo, and goofy song and dance numbers with piano accompaniment by Don Seaver, who wrote the music, and a large (and slightly uneven) cast of nine actors, each playing multiple roles.

“The Battle of Midway! Live! Onstage!” is amusingly metatheatrical. A small and impoverished theater company – Theatre Hippopotamus— run by a gay man (played by Fisher, of course) is producing this comedy despite the concerns and criticisms of the board of directors and key funders.

According to Fisher’s note in the program, he grew up loving “loud war movies” and this is his tribute to the genre.

The show depicts a group of Japanese pilots (all women) pitted against a group of Americans (all men) led by Gen. Nimitz, who’s played with gusto by Rhino regular Donald Currie, who also plays (among other roles) Midway Island, complete with a palm tree on his head.

Planes and aircraft carriers are shot down. Japanese airmen commit suicide. An admiral (petite, buff Justin Lucas) suddenly gets “beriberi” sick, leaving the field open for another admiral – screw-up Fletch (Fisher) – to take over operations.

A Japanese girl, Michiko (Lucas again, in pigtails, very funny), falls in love with a Japanese airman and they warble a duet, “Young Love,” featuring the lyrics “Love . . . Japanese love!” (When the pilot tragically dies, a grieving Michiko sings, plaintively, over the dead body, “I’m a one-guy girl/I could just hurl.”)

Along the way, Currie warns the audience, “Please do not learn your history from plays and movies!” Indeed.

Interspersed are meetings with funders and pointed references to “the other gay theater” in town, the one that’s presumably more successful.

In this cross between Mel Brooks-style, over-the-top comedy and a “Saturday Night Live” extended skit, Fisher anticipates every possible criticism and pre-empts them all. You gotta love that he’s doing exactly what he wants to do and is willing to make fun of himself and his theater — and some of the material is quite witty.

But the play is simply too long and too repetitive — and the acting mostly too hammy – to generate the laughs it’s aiming for.

REVIEW

The Battle of Midway! Live! Onstage!

Presented by Theatre Rhinoceros

Where: Costume Shop, 1117 Market St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. most Wednesdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, closes Nov. 30

Tickets: $15 to $20

Contact: (800) 838-3006 or www.therhino.org

artsJohn FisherThe Battle of Midway! Live! OnstageTheatre Rhino Rhinoceros

Just Posted

Danielle Baskin, right, and friends hung a Halloween store banner on the sign of a mostly empty tech campus on Monday as a prank. (Photo courtesy Vincent Woo)
‘BOOgle!’ Pranksers wrap Google’s SF office park in ‘Spirit Halloween’ signage

The goof says it all about The City’s empty tech campuses

Alison Collins, a member of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education, listens during a board meeting. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Alison Collins speaks: Embattled SF school board member confronts the recall effort

‘It’s important for folks to know what this recall is about. It’s bigger than any one of us.’

Passengers board a BART train at Powell Street station on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Powell Station death serves as a grim reminder. BART doors don’t stop for anyone

What you need to know about safety sensors on the trains

Is the Black Cat affair a distraction from the recovery of The City’s storied nightlife industry or does Mayor Breed’s behavior inadvertently highlight the predicament the industry’s been in since San Francisco reinstated indoor mask requirements on Aug. 20? (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner, 2021)
Mayor Breed mask controversy highlights nightlife businesses’ plight

‘It’s what all the venues and bars are living every single day’

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>

Most Read