The Opposite of Sex
This brilliant musical version of Don Roos' film is both moving and hilarious, thanks in part to a top-notch cast.
But even that seeming slip is intentional. Instantly disabusing the audience of any visions of sappy afterschool-special apercus ("After that summer, I was never the same..."), Butler bites into the role; and before long, Christina Ricci's incisive cinematic interpretation recedes from memory. Butler's Dedee is less sour and more driven -- for reasons never fully eludicated beyond the inchoate imperatives of adolescence. In short, she's chaos theory in the flesh. Yet, this Dedee is also far more endearing than her film counterpart, as is every character, embodied here by an optimal cast that includes such top-rate actors as Kaitlin Hopkins and Gregg Edelman.
Composer/lyricist Douglas J. Cohen and director Robert Jess Roth share credit for the book, based on Roos' screenplay. It's one tight trajectory -- moving all over the map while compassionately recharting the territory of the heart, all in the space of a brisk two hours. Derek McLane's set, like a train-hobbyist's miniaturization of suburbia splashed across the walls and ceiling, helps ease the rapid transitions. And when's the last time you saw a scene change involving a roll-on urinal?
Lighting out from Louisiana with her Bible-thumping boyfriend, the aptly named Randy (Ian Scott McGregor), Dedee descends on her half-brother, Bill (Edelman), an openly gay high-school English teacher in Indiana. In quick order, she seduces his "cute stupid" live-in lover, Matt (David Burtka). The outcome of their tryst is instant teen pregnancy -- although crabby Lucia (Kaitlin Hopkins), the sister of Tom, Bill's former lover who died of AIDS, is dubious. The plot moves quickly as Jason (Lance Rubin), a former student of Bill's, hatches an extortion plot in hopes of re-hooking up with Matt, and Carl (Herndon Lackey), an earnest local sheriff, pursues the young grifters to Los Angeles and Canada, all the while falling for Lucia, whose distrust of love rivals Dedee's despite her own diehard jones for Bill.
Feydeau couldn't have constructed a more intricate roundelay, and surely no one but Cohen and Roth could have finessed the transition to musical as deftly. They've worked a miracle: an adaptation that's equal to, and in some ways richer than, the original. The songs -- tightly rhymed, so they're terse, yet powerful -- seem to arise organically from the dialogue. Two numbers leap out as candidates for a torch singer's canon: Lucia's lament over her infatuation with Bill, "It's Not Enough," and "Look for Me First," Carl's plea for -- and deceptively simple definition of -- love.