‘Devil Boys from Beyond’ delightfully absurd
LA GRANDE — Featuring campy dialogue and eerie otherness, “Devil Boys from Beyond” is seemingly ripped from classic 1950s science-fiction horror flicks, but there are a few notable distinctions. Overt sexuality makes up most of the play, as “everyone knows aliens like to party.”
The line, delivered by news photographer Gregory Graham (played by Sam Shown), doesn’t begin to explain what’s really going on.
Gregory, an alcoholic trying to kick the habit, joins reporter Matilda Van Buren (played by Danielle DeVall) on assignment to Lizard Lick, Florida. The town already “cultivates its eccentricity like an exotic flower,” but recent events have become more perplexing. All the old men have been replaced by young studs, and all the elderly women are suddenly pregnant.
The news duo — who were formerly married — also learn they’ve been tailed by Matilda’s rival reporter, Lucinda Marsh — whose seduction of Gregory led to the end of their marriage.
If you aren’t already thoroughly entertained by the sex-driven alien invasion or by the personal and professional struggles between the reporters, you may find entertainment in the drag component.
Following in the tradition of the show, most of the women in “Devil Boys from Beyond” are played by men in drag. Lucinda, for instance, is played by Robert Wilson. Actors Jordan Hickey and Connor Purtzer play elderly residents Florence Wexler and Dotty Primrose.
Although Wilson said audiences will likely be intrigued by the vulgarity of the show’s drag and its dialogue in general, Purtzer said the intent is not merely to make empty jokes about drag and sexuality.
“We’ve done a lot of research and watched many hours of ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ to get a feel for true drag queens,” he said.
Wilson said it’s been a struggle to find the right balance between masculinity and femininity, but it helped to participate in what the actors called “Drag Queen Bootcamp.” To start, they spent a while people watching, noticing the differences between how men and women carry themselves.
“(We noticed that) women walk with a purpose,” Wilson said. “Even when they’re wearing heels.”
Despite some blisters from their own heels, Purtzer and Wilson said they are having fun with their roles. Purtzer said his initial reaction to the script was that he wanted to produce the show “50 billion times.”
Wilson said he was surprised this kind of story exists, let alone in a play. Shown, who said he personally didn’t want to play a drag queen, still thought the show was hilarious.
Still not entertained? Get ready for some surprise twists. There is a purpose for the alien invasion besides probing and nipple clamps. Even the reporters’ rivalry that began as a mundane competition for the scoop becomes even more absurd with one final twist.
Although the show isn’t for everyone, the comedy offers a ton of laughs for the right audience.
“I’d say it’s an 18+ event,” Purtzer said. “There’s a lot of talk of sex.”
Wilson said there are also several references that would be lost on younger ears, including one allusion to Bela Lugosi, who played Count Dracula in 1931.
At the very least, all audiences can enjoy the actors’ craft. DeVall and Samuel Miller have mastered the fast-talking news speak found in “His Girl Friday.” Wilson, Hickey and Purtzer put their all into drag. Jeremiah Dockweiler dons an extremely convincing persona as the seasoned Southern sheriff, as well as a starkly contrasted persona that will not be spoiled here.
Shown’s character completely melts at the promise of booze.
“I don’t think I’ve personally been that dependent or so reliant on anything,” he said. “Yet this character follows alcohol around like a puppy.”
Director Heather Tomlinson said she chose the play for its ’50s sci-fi style, sexual jokes and commentary, but also for its small cast.
“(The actors) have been awesome. It’s great how open they were to putting on a pair of boobs,” she said.
Tomlinson also said she is excited to know that one of the writers of the play sent his well wishes to the cast.
“I’ve never received word from a playwright for something we’re working on, so that’s pretty neat,” she said.
Eastern Oregon University’s production opens tonight and runs through March 10. The shows begin at 7 p.m. in the Lyle Schwarz Theater in Loso Hall.