2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Birdie’s Pit Stop (and the tribe of queers who fucked everything up)’ at On the Rocks

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Camp and kitsch reign supreme in On the Rocks’ Birdie’s Pit Stop (and the tribe of queers who fucked everything up), an outrageously funny world-premiere parody of the horror genre and the second installment in “The Dead Teenager Trilogy” by hot young Philadelphia playwright Haygen Brice Walker. Company Co-Founder Elaina Di Monaco directs the over-the-top story of drag wars, dive bars, and demonic possession with a fast pace and a keen eye for Walker’s saucy characterizations, biting humor, and insightful observations about outsiders.

From front to back, left to right: Jenna Kuerzi, Katherine Perry, Campbell O’Hare, Aaron Palmer, and Joe Canuso. Pre-production photo by Ashton Carter.
From front to back, left to right: Jenna Kuerzi, Katherine Perry, Campbell O’Hare, Aaron Palmer, and Joe Canuso. Pre-production photo by Ashton Carter.

So along with all the big laughs and mock frights, the show (despite the writer’s disclaimer that it’s just “stupid”) contains a provocative undertone about the rampant violence and bigotry, and the resultant excess of political correctness, that have taken possession of our society.

Casting of the characters is spot-on, featuring a nine-person ensemble of some of the city’s best emerging talents. Portraying the rough-and-tumble southern rednecks are Campbell O’Hare, Katherine Perry, and Jenna Kuerzi as bar-owner Birdie and her bizarre sisters, and Joe Canuso and Aaron Palmer as their errant boyfriends.

Promotional image for Birdie’s Pit Stop. Photo by Haygen Brice Walker.
Promotional image for Birdie’s Pit Stop. Photo by Haygen Brice Walker.

The group of four gay lost and stranded northern travelers is played by Ashton Carter, Abby Garber, Iman Aaliyah, and Richie Sklar, whose fabulous cross-dressing persona Trixie Tabu saves the day with panache and a little help from J-Lo. All of the actors bring youthful energy and a no-holds-barred hilarity to their exaggerated cinematic stereotypes, playing them to the hilt with a flawless ease of delivery, terrific comic timing, fully believable accents, and wildly engaging interactions, in character-defining costumes designed by O’Hare.

The site-specific production is staged in the non-traditional space of a South Philly coffee shop, with one room transformed into the eponymous southern haunt, filled with tacky décor, trophies of the hunt, religious artifacts, and mementos of the Confederacy, and another representing the outdoor environs (including the front and back seats and steering wheel of a hearse, rented by the titular tribe for its ill-fated road trip), in a scenic design by Michael Iacobucci.

L to R: Ashton Carter, Richie Sklar, and Iman Aaliyah. Pre-production photo by Campbell O’Hare.
L to R: Ashton Carter, Richie Sklar, and Iman Aaliyah. Pre-production photo by Campbell O’Hare.

The audience—some seated, some kneeling, some standing–follows the actors in the immersive scenes back and forth from room to room. While the format actively engages us in the story, it also occasionally makes for bad sightlines and blocked views–much to the misfortune of those who couldn’t see every single “stupid” second!

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one intermission.

Birdie’s Pit Stop (and the tribe of queers who fucked everything up) plays through Saturday, September 17, 2016, performing at The Pharmacy – 1300 South 18th Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call (215) 413-1318, or purchase them online.

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BEST OF THE 2016 PHILADELPHIA FRINGE!