He is a failed comedian whose career never took off. She is an actress whose attempts at fame also took a turn on Dead End Street. They both need each other, but they both hate each other. Together, this 1950s married couple, “Mr. and Mrs. Matinee”, host a mid-day movie show. The current, fictitious picture is Say Your Prayers, Ya Mug! and through December 17th at Off Broadway’s Theater, this tribute to Hollywood classic films, written by and starring Todd Michael will spring to life in a stage parody called The Big Uncut Flick.
Todd Michael, whose previous play-writing credits include Bad Dames Go to Hell and The Asphalt Christmas is reviving The Big Uncut Flick after a successful run in 2007. “I’d always wanted to revisit it and the timing to do this at Theater Row just worked,” he said during a recent interview at an office in Midtown Manhattan. “Initially, I had begun to work on a project that mixed science fiction with politics. Suddenly, I didn’t think it was a good idea to continue with the project because what was funny a month or two ago is no longer funny now.” Michael is grateful that he followed his instincts and added that this piece is “much lighter and a great source of light-hearted entertainment.”
During the show’s first premiere, Michael was notified that a tough critic from Backstage magazine would be reviewing. “He notoriously hated everything and I thought for sure I’d be crucified!” To the contrary, it earned a rave write up and was hailed by the reviewer as “a brisk, mirthful hour pitched somewhere between a Mad movie parody and the even madder genre travesties of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company.”
Michael was drawn to play-writing after years of performing. After seeing a friend’s show downtown, he had the idea to bring acting friends and colleagues together, rent a space, and see what would happen. He explained, “Our first show was a Charles Busch play, but then I had written a 10 page piece and expanded that. That led me to the fringe festival.” His play-writing career grew from there.
He’s particularly proud of The Big Uncut Flick because it combines two completely different decades. “So many gay men are drawn to the film noir material of the fifties, but I’ve always been fascinated by the 1930s stuff,” he said. “The dialogue, lingo,and staccato are quite appealing to me.” He tips his hat to James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and other stars of that time. In the early days of television, producers would often cut major parts of films to appease advertisers, but they denied that they did it. “That’s part of the joke of the title,” Michael said. “This couple is commenting on what is supposed to be an uncut movie, and it is anything but that!”
While the title itself seems inappropriate for the workplace and polite company, Michael points out that the show is actually family friendly. “I don’t make it vulgar,” he said. “I like the fact that there is a lot of innuendo, but that is due to the dialogue.” He believes that good writing speaks for itself and added, “You don’t need to use four letter words. It’s just a cop-out.” He’s also hesitant to describe his style as “campy” since people often equate it with something that is extremely gay or over the top. Michael notes that audiences range from kids and teenagers who are unfamiliar with the references but still enjoy a good laugh to seniors who become nostalgic. His cast of eight is equally as varied and includes long time acting colleagues as well as new folks. “Thanks to my director, Synge Maher, we’ve been able to assemble a great group who embraced the style and language,” he added with much enthusiasm.
Gender-bending is also an intriguing aspect of Michael’s work. He’ll be playing his role in drag, but points out that his male lead is played by a woman. “I’ve always wanted to do that and I think it’s becoming more popular in theater. To me, it offers a more interesting perspective for the audience.” He asserted, “Why should it just be men in drag? This shakes things up a bit!”
With political differences and stress levels at an all-time high, Michael is thrilled to be bringing his show back to New York theatergoers. “There’s no serious message here and there doesn’t always have to be when you go to the theater,” he observed. “It’s funny, fun escapism. We need this kind of show right now.”
The Big Uncut Flick is playing now through Dec. 17th Off-Broadway in the Studio Theatre of Theatre Row (West 42nd between 9th and 10th). For show times, tickets, and more information, visit this link , ya dirty bums!