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That Golden Girls Show! — A Puppet Parody

To travel down the road and back again, or just stay home?

Arlee Chadwick, Michael LaMasa, Emmanuelle Zeesman, and Cat Greenfield star in That Golden Girls Show! — A Puppet Parody, created and directed by Jonathan Rockefeller, at the DR2 Theatre.
(© Russ Rowland)

You don't have to look very far to get your fix of The Golden Girls, the beloved 1980s sitcom about four older women in Miami. According to TV Guide, at least 30 episodes are set to play in syndication this week (on Hallmark, TV Land, and Logo). The show is undoubtedly one of the most rebroadcast ever and for good reasons: The writing is still fresh and funny 24 years after the series ended, aided by the performances of one of the best casts ever assembled for a sitcom. Writer and director Jonathan Rockefeller is hoping to capture some of that magic in That Golden Girls Show! — A Puppet Parody at the DR2 Theatre, which reimagines the girls as Avenue Q-style felty friends on a compacted version of the original set. Unfortunately, he's only mildly successful.

This is despite the fact that the stage show closely hews to the original: Southern belle Blanche (Cat Greenfield), Minnesota sweetheart Rose (Arlee Chadwick), feisty Sicilian Sophia (Emmanuelle Zeesman), and Sophia's schoolteacher daughter, Dorothy (Michael LaMasa), are four women of a certain age sharing a bungalow in Miami. Sophia is looking for a way to get rich quick when Dorothy's ex-husband, Stanley (Zach Kononov), walks in the door and tells them that he stands to inherit $400,000 if Dorothy remarries him. Of course, Dorothy isn't the only single lady in the house. Meanwhile, Blanche turns to plastic surgery to maintain her devastatingly gorgeous figure, and Rose tries desperately to save the St. Olaf Herring Circus. Cheesecake and shade is served with abandon over the course of 90 minutes.

One really develops an appreciation for the half-hour sitcom form after seeing That Golden Girls Show! — A Puppet Parody. Puppets and not-ready-for-primetime language aside, it's really not much of a parody (it's difficult to parody something that is already very funny on its own). Rather, this feels like one regular episode stretched out over an hour and a half, creating slackness in the comedy that is only occasionally remedied by the bravura performances of the cast.

Foremost among them is LaMasa, whose portrayal of Bea Arthur is so on point, it's spooky. Not only is his voice pitched to an Arthurian octave, but he precisely re-creates her diction, timing, and extra-dry delivery. Close your eyes and you might think she's risen from the dead. Greenfield's simpering Rue McClanahan is also a riot, especially after Blanche discovers her facelift has been botched. Everyone in the cast does a great job handling their puppets, displaying a specific relationship between puppet and performer that helps us accept that our protagonists are being carried around by black-clad manipulators three times their size.

Michael LaMasa plays Dorothy in That Golden Girls Show! — A Puppet Parody.
(© Russ Rowland)

Joel Gennari's puppets not only resemble the ladies in question, but capture key features of their respective characters: Dorothy's permascowl, Blanche's bedroom eyes, Sophia's poker face, and Rose's troubled confusion. Scenic designer David Goldstein creates two distinctive playing spaces (the living room and kitchen) separated by a swinging door, the must-have feature for any real farce. Sadly, Rockefeller fails to truly take advantage of it in his lethargic staging.

Super fans of the show will definitely enjoy spending time with these characters. If the chorus of folks singing along to the opening theme at the top of the show is any indication, their ranks are sizable. Still, they might get just as much enjoyment (if not more) by staying home and switching on the TV.