Written by Alina Mae wilson
I’ve not seen the old movies, the new movies, nary a graphic novel nor a review about the famed beast have I laid eyes upon–until now. Ladies and gentlemen, I have been to the Maverick Theater in Fullerton, where I have feasted my eyes on The Eighth Wonder of the World King Kong! And I am so glad I did, it was actually a lot of fun.
The year is 1933. Our story begins with a talented but as yet untrusted film director who is rapidly preparing to set sail with a hired crew. Why is he going? To shoot a film of course. Where is he going? He’s not telling. Without a care for the irritations and suspicions that this secrecy arouses, he finds himself a down-on-her-luck actress willing to accompany him on his mad voyage to film the greatest beast he can find halfway around the world. His attempts at encountering the creature are successful when halfway around the world they discover (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER BEWARE THE SPOILER) the legendary monstrosity himself, King Kong.
The story: Being new to the story of King Kong, the only thing that I went into the theater expecting was a gorilla. I got a gorilla. But more importantly (ok, almost as importantly) I got a pretty decent story to go along with it. This play follows closely the plot of the original 1933 film, and while I am sure at the time it was perceived as frightening, shocking even, the fact is that nowadays the subject matter probably isn’t going to scare a lot of people. But it doesn’t matter, because while it follows closely the original script, the play makes up for the lack of scares by having an extra layer of camp. This makes the story much MUCH funnier and more enjoyable than it would have been if they tried to play it straight.
A significant part of what makes this production so much fun is the set. They have a green screen that they play film footage on as the backdrop. The Maverick Theater is by no means the first theater to use video in lieu of moving set pieces, but they are by far the most successful at it. The moving background, the black and white, the fact that the performers do not merely share space with the background but actually interact with the background is enough to give you a chortle if not a full on belly laugh. And the stuff that is going on is worth the chuckle. There are some props and set pieces that will give you a laugh as well.
The chemistry between Kalinda Gray (who plays actress Anne Darrow) and Paul Zelhart (who plays director Carl Denham) is great. I enjoyed watching the two of them interact and play off of each other. Special mention goes to Kalinda Gray, who’s performance as the out-of-her-depth-but-still-giving-it-her-all actress is beyond reproach. There are a few other performers in the show who are bewilderingly off-center in their performances, but the goofiness of Gray and Zelhart dramatically playing to big tv screens makes up for it.
The Eighth Wonder of the World King Kong is playing at the Maverick Theater. Do yourself and a friend a favor–go see it. It’s fun, it’s goofy, and it’s a level of camp that isn’t often seen in the smaller theaters.
February 8th – March 16th, 2019