Anyone who’s a sucker for chicks-in-prison flicks will get a kick out of The Fugitive Girls, a remarkably faithful adaptation of an 1960s’ Ed Wood B-movie, now at the St. Marks Theater. Transferred to the stage by director Frank Cwiklik, this road-movie-in-a-black-box is perfect late-night fodder for anyone looking for some cheap thrills and offbeat entertainment. Originally performed in the summer of 2000 at a Masterworks of Ed Wood play festival at the late Todo Con Nada, the project has luckily been revived for this current production.
Following the adventures of a quartet of brazen female escapees, The Fugitive Girls brings four very different females together for the ride of their lives. There’s sexy Toni (Jackie Payne), streetwise Paula (Danielle Daggerty), ringleader Cat (Michelle Schlossberg), and newcomer Dee (Christiaan Koop).
Of course Dee is innocent of pulling the liquor-store robbery which put her behind bars; of course Cat wants to bunk with her and take Dee under her wing; of course Toni has hidden money waiting for her on the outside and doesn’t trust Dee; and of course Paula wants to beat up Dee (and everybody else). Of course it’s all been seen and done before, but Cwiklik spins Wood’s story into an intriguing indictment against criminal camaraderie, corrections facilities and the justice system.
The director/adapter has reworked the source material as a semi-serious homage to filmmaker Wood, who genuinely tried to make worthwhile films despite his lack of sophistication and expertise. Audience members expecting an all–out campy catfight may come away surprised, satisfied and unsettlingly enlightened.
Every cliché of every jailbreak movie is thrown into the plot, along with Easy Rideresque encounters with some dangerous deadbeats once they hit the open road. There are cops and kooks and hippies and heavies, and the fearsome foursome take ’em all on without breaking a sweat. An altercation with a gas station attendant provides some much-needed levity, but an ill-fated stop at the house of a cripple and his wife seals the fate of the women and results in a harrowing climax to the play.
All the supporting characters were played by a handful of resourceful actors –- hilarious Ian W. Hill, maniacal Bob Laine, menacing Josh Mertz, and sizzling Sarah Jane Bunker. The entire cast committed to their roles and played them straight, instead of milking them for laughs.
The technical elements and set construction by Berit Johnson made the most of the tiny St. Marks space. Schlossberg choreographed the raucous fight sequences. The uncredited costumes were creative and character-defining. Youthquake! is the culprit behind the excellent sound design and the loud but eclectic jukebox-on-acid soundtrack.
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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac