Mondays in October are home to a serialized theatre event that I’ve been lucky enough to attend for the past two years. Like soap operas, the Hope Operas feature recurring characters and advancing plots. Though self-contained, the real fun is to return to see cliff-hangers resolved and characters grow. For 2013, their fifth year, the theme was “cartoons for adults.” Here are photos and summaries from the five shows that contributed episodes.

2013 Hope Operas
John Tweel, Tony Greenberg, Catherine Aselford, Andrew Lloyd Baughman, and Jefferson Farber

Uncle @$$b@g’s Storytime centered around a belligerent “senile coot” who tortures his imbecilic assistants. The show was fueled mostly by throw-away routines, and didn’t come to life until the third week when Uncle @$$b@g dropped character and pleaded directly with the audience to stop hating the show, which the audience loved. There wasn’t much conflict until the final episode when, too late, one of the assistants threw Uncle @$$b@g out the window.

2013 Hope Operas
Zelda (Stefanie Garcia) and Uncle @$$b@g (Andrew Lloyd Baughman)

2013 Hope Operas
Bill (Matt Baughman)

2013 Hope Operas
Trixie (Ally Jenkins) and Uncle @$$b@g (Mary Suib)

I was at a disadvantage watching Our Pretty Ponies: Great Big Science Adventure!, as I had never been exposed to the My Pretty Pony toy franchise. I wonder if Hasbro intended their toys to be seen as alcoholic or borderline retarded. A fun spirit kept the momentum going. Ashley Byrd commanded the stage with her endearing and sympathetic portrayal of a determined but dim-witted pony. One quirky highlight was Andrew Wodzianski’s too-brief appearance as Skeletor navigating an online dating service.

2013 Hope Operas
Aurora Dawn (Lily Kerrigan) and Pinky Swear (Laura Fontaine)

2013 Hope Operas
Julip (Katie McManus) and Spark (Ashley Byrd)

2013 Hope Operas
Skeletor (Andrew Wodzianski)

Then there’s the touchstone production, the one that best embodies the wacky spirit of the Hope Operas. G.A.S.H. vs. S.C.H.L.O.N.G. had the wildest menagerie of characters, pitting the Gay Association of Super Heroes against the Super-Conniving, Heinous League Of No Goodniks. The feisty cast dug up stereotypes and turned them inside-out. Man Pussy and his sidekick/lover Boy Pussy, this show’s version of Batman and Robin, worked out their personal issues while helping their teammates defeat the statuesque villain Eva Brontosauras and her traitorous henchman The Knob Goblin, whose pink sequined cape was probably the best costume on stage anywhere in the Washington region. Chris Griffin wrote the snappy script in addition to playing a lead, and that in addition to founding and running the Hope Operas itself. Though I liked the hopeful resolution at the final episode, this show deserves to live on and bring its characters back to life.

2013 Hope Operas
Eva Brontosauras (Lucrezia Blozia) and The Knob Goblin (Tony Greenberg)

2013 Hope Operas
Man Pussy (John Tweel)

2013 Hope Operas
Man Pussy (John Tweel), Honey Moonbeam (Jen Bevan), and Tits Von Duck (Ally Jenkins)

Then there’s Chupy & The Science Twins. Clearly not the first show to be inspired by Scooby-Doo, this odd little production surprised me by how it skipped just making fun of the old Saturday-morning TV show, and somehow managed to instead use it as a launching point for something a little deeper. Setting the right tone were the two actors playing the Science Twins, Brad Science (Charlie Retzlaff) and his sister Jenny Science (Amy Kellett). At first I thought it an improbable coincidence that two guileless actors ended up playing the sincere and sincerely dorky Science Twins, but by the end of the show I concluded this was either a triumph of stunt casting or two actors doing a fine job of portraying goofy teenagers. I loved seeing them face off against the nefarious Dr Bigfoot. Many scenes were upstaged by the mysterious Mothman, who, in a daft bit of stagecraft, would simply flutter to a wall and stay there, back to the audience. Maurice Martin wrote a tight script perfectly fitted for the serialized format. There was something so sunny in this show. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a play with such an optimistic heart. The ending was delightfully unlikely, trading conflict for cooperation, and being the better for it.

2013 Hope Operas
Brad (Charlie Retzlaff), Chupy (Timothy King), and Jenny (Amy Kellett)

2013 Hope Operas
Chupy (Timothy King) and Dr. Bigfoot (John Tweel)

2013 Hope Operas
Jenny (Amy Kellett), Brad (Charlie Retzlaff), and Mothman (Pamela Leahigh)

I don’t like flashbacks as a theatrical device. I’m sick of Lucha Libre wrestling and those stupid masks. So I was not looking forward to De Diario De Los Luchadores. But this captivating play played by its own rules. I settled in and enjoyed the ride. How did such a cast get assembled? It was like a master class in character acting. I’ve seen Ian LeValley in many productions through the years, but to see him on stage alongside his young son was too cute, especially considering the grisly procedure we knew was coming. Then there’s Misty Demory, looking like Julianne Moore, who made me feel like I had walked into a community theatre only to find Meryl Streep on stage. Jefferson Farber played a naïve sex-changing protagonist seeking his destiny on the wrestling mat, embodying his improbable role without restraint. Supporting performances from Ashley Faye Dillard and Victor Maldonado were spot-on and enjoyable. The script, credited to “Piso Mojado,” was wildly inventive. I was dizzy after each episode, my head spinning from the verbal gymnastics and crazy plot twists.

2013 Hope Operas
Jésus Dulce (Jefferson Farber) and Bruja Limpiadora (Nancy Flores)

2013 Hope Operas
Padre Culero (Ian LeValley) and María Asunsión Corona de Modelo (Misty Demory)

2013 Hope Operas
Sloppy José (Brighton Barker), Jésus Dulce (Calder LeValley) and Padre Culero (Ian LeValley)

And did I mention the “hope” part of Hope Operas refers to this being a fundraiser for local charities? Everyone involved donated their time and talents, following their motto “doing good by doing theatre.” More than just a fun way to spend a Monday night, this was all for a good cause, by participating in four nights of fun, inventive, crazy, experimental theatre.

More photos via the hope2013 tag. For photos from last year, see hope2012.

Experimenting on Stage, Hopeful Highlights

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