Sinnin' kinfolk

Red Card's new play sets Sophocles' tragedy in Dogpatch.

THERE'S NOTHING intrinsically wrong with juvenile comedy, so long as it's performed by juveniles. That's what's so appealing about Red Card, a group of fresh-faced young thespians with the dew of drama school still dripping from their ears who've embarked on an insanely ambitious new season of original material. Their new offering (following a sterling revival of their love triangle vaudeville Happy Panties) isn't their best work to date, but it's a chance to see them continue their self-education in entertaining an audience.

Eddie Paul Rex

Fremont Palace till October 3

With its murders, plagues, feuds, and (best of all) incest shocker, the tragedy of Oedipus Rex is a natural refit for the sort of hillbilly high jinks that Hee Haw used to specialize in. (And whatever happened to this "Lil' Abner" type of humor anyway? Rural poverty reports and Deliverance made it harder to chuckle at dirt floors, bare feet, and moonshiners, I suspect.) So it's no surprise that Eddie Paul Rex is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the classic story of the man who, in a desperate attempt to avoid killing his father and sleeping with his mother, kills his father and sleeps with his mother. Freed from Aristotlelian strictures of dramatic unity, Robert Gifford's adaptation spans the entire saga, from the birth of little Elvis, Jr. to his final shocking revelation and even a "happily ever after" ending of sorts.

Eddie Paul Rex (Gifford again), unaware of his heritage, grows into a Boston street punk. But a chance encounter with a fortune cookie and a telephone psychic sends him fleeing his family and off to the South, where he runs into his daddy again on the Hoochie-Min Trail (yes, it's that sort of show). After offing his old man in a fire-fight that's lovingly replayed for us in slow motion, he goes on to best the Sphinx, a professional wrestler who's somehow gotten transplanted to the Appalachians. All that's left is for him to meet up with the newly widowed sexpot Mary Jo (Joylayne Tristan Berg, who deserves a larger and more subtle role than this), and the prophecy is inadvertently fulfilled.

About the time that the plague comes to Thebes county (the dreaded "gout"), it's clear that the main problem with the show is not in the liberties it's taking with the original but in adhering too closely to it. The pace slows to a crawl in the second half and is only redeemed through a completely unnecessary (but entirely hilarious) chicken dance. It's silly, it's often in bad taste, but despite some obvious flaws, it's still unpretentious fun with some great parodies of bluegrass and country music and goofy performances.

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