If you haven’t seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” don’t expect to understand the movie any better after its 10th annual performance Friday at midnight in the Ezra Stiles College Dining Hall.
By itself, the film is a bizarre, sexually charged parody of American horror movies depicting a newlywed couple’s encounter with a band of singing transvestites. At Yale, the film becomes merely a platform for what some call creative genius. While the classic 1975 cult film is projected on a big screen, a cast of about 15 Yalies act out the movie using their own improvisational wit and almost no props. The cast of Yalies parallels the performance in great detail — they even don the same costumes seen in the film, including feathered boas, ornate tuxedos, leather lingerie and fishnet stockings.
From the very opening of the film, when the cast members boisterously sing the film’s risque opening song, it is clear that the cast has an impeccable knowledge of the script. But it’s the lines that aren’t part of the original film that make the Yale production hilarious. Over the years, “Rocky Horror’s” cult following, as well as Yale students, has developed lines to yell at the movie to complement the script
For example, before an actor in the film sings out, “Oh, Honey,” cast members interject with the question, “What do Irish bees make?”
In another scene, Brad Rosen ’04 exclaims, “What is this place, a hunting lodge?” The response from the others on stage: “Yeah, it’s Yale.”
It’s the mutability of the script that makes “Rocky Horror” transcend time. Joseph Bono ’05, who plays the part of Meatloaf, said parts of the script added in the early 1990s making references to O.J. Simpson and Bill Clinton have been removed because they are no longer as funny. Cast members are willing to add in any lines that will elicit laughter from the audience.
“It’s basically a lot of drunk people acting out something that they see and yelling random stuff back to the screen,” Donald Nguyen ’04 said. Nguyen plays Dr. Everett Von Scott, the criminologist who narrates the film, better known to fans of the movie as “the man with no neck.”
Cast members said seeing the shocked, sometimes traumatized faces of those who have never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” drives them to deliver the most energetic, risque performance possible. In achieving this “shock value,” the cast pulls out all the stops. The choreographed dances, call-backs and blocking run the gamut from innuendo to overt sexual deviance. This lack of traditional theatrical inhibition lends to the production’s appeal.
Rosen and Denali Dasgupta ’04 do a wonderful job reenacting the film’s scenes. One particularly memorable moment is their mirrored performance of Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss’s (Susan Sarandon) wedding. However, scenes such as this are islands of sanity in a sea of zany, non-stop sexual humor. As the film’s plot becomes increasingly racy and incoherent, no one in the cast hesitates to add to the chaos by stripping down to their bare underwear and belting out the lyrics to a song.
Rosen said the cast members give each other the freedom to create their own roles on stage. This is evident in the charged love scene between Janet Weiss and Rocky Horror, the monster created by Dr. Frank-N-Furter. “Notice how we’ve cast a woman as Rocky,” Rosen said. “This gives us an excuse to add a lesbian scene.”
Watching Raphi Soipher ’04 interpret the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter is especially enjoyable. Soipher has a great presence on the stage and audience members will laugh just knowing that he is attempting to play the role of a transvestite scientist.
Similar productions of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” are common at colleges throughout the country. Many of the unscripted lines are spread among different productions. It is also popular to throw things at the cast, such as rice, bread and toilet paper, or even use squirt guns. Don’t get any ideas; the Yale administration has prohibited this practice.
For those who have never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” seeing their fellow Yalies act it out on stage will be a provocative eye-opener. Even long-time fans of the film be drawn in the by the script, songs and costumes they never thought would grace the Stiles stage.
Oh, and fair warning: there will be a special surprise before the show on Friday night for any audience members that have never seen the film.