Win One Productions

at the Factory Theatre

I am either the perfect person or the worst person to write about Win One Productions’ Saturday Morning Live. This hour-long original comedy revue spoofs all the Saturday-morning children’s shows I used to watch. Not the ones I took only a passing interest in, like Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and Josie & the Pussycats. And not the ones already in reruns, shows from my older brother’s youth like Johnny Quest and Clutch Cargo. Saturday Morning Live magically targets the shows that were brand-new when I turned eight. My brother was already too old for them, so they were mine. As the program notes, these were the days when all we cared about was “cereal, the sofa, and cartoons.”

In short, Win One is messing with my most sacred cows: Scooby-Doo, Land of the Lost, Capt. Caveman & Teen Angels, Fat Albert & Cosby Kids, Superfriends, Hong Kong Phooey, and perhaps the holiest of holies, Grammar Rock, America Rock, and Schoolhouse Rock. I know these programs better than I know my own family. I may not be able to tell you what my Aunt Janet does for a living (or even where she lives, come to think of it), but I can tell you that Casey Kasem did the voices of Shaggy and Robin.

Fortunately, Win One digs around in my childhood with respect, even reverence. These young performers unearth the very gems I’ve been polishing in my memory for years. So many delicious details are here: the switchboard operator with the Brooklyn accent and the outrageous blond curls from Hong Kong Phooey, Holly’s surreal braids from Land of the Lost, the inexplicable mannerisms of the kids from Fat Albert. Win One even includes a snippet from my all-time-favorite commercial: a group of kids play Milton Bradley’s Operation, and as they finish their game the Mother Figure joins them and asks, “May I play?” in a voice stilted beyond belief.

At the same time, my intimate knowledge of Win One’s source material puts me at something of a disadvantage: I’m rather like a Shakespeare scholar who’s had to sit through a high school production of Hamlet. It’s not enough to have “A noun’s a person, place, or thing” or “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here” sung to me because I already know those songs backward and forward. Much of the humor of the evening is based on pure nostalgia–which, I must admit, the audience simply reveled in the night I attended. They howled at the mere mention of the Sleestaks, as this long-forgotten absurdity suddenly surfaced from the murky depth of memory. What on earth is so important in their lives that they have forgotten the Sleestaks?

To give the evening a little more punch, the group–dare I use the word–deconstructs the agendas behind these programs by adding those elements they were always missing: scatology, real-world violence, and sexuality. Thus in the America Rock segment about the American Revolution, one of the colonists, instead of waving his arms angrily above his head at King George III, farts in his general direction. Fred and Velma hump madly in the Mystery Machine. A drug dealer guns down Aqua Man.

Such an approach is nothing new, nor does it add much, for that matter, to an already exhausted critique of programs deemed appropriate–read “sanitized”–for children. But it does provide for a lot of twisted wish fulfillment: didn’t you always want to see one of the Sleestaks cart off sexy Will to be his love slave? And it makes for an entertaining and decidedly mindless evening in the theater.

The six-member cast is quite strong, cleverly imitating some characters and adding perverse twists to others. Writer and director David Gips has a knack for distilling these shows to their essences, so that within a few seconds entire worlds are created. Often his staging is cluttered, however, and six people running at full speed have little room to maneuver.