Uptown’s ‘Gilligan’s Island’ spoof is its gayest, best yet

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THE MILLIONAIRE AND HIS RENTBOY | An over-sexed twink (Angel Velasco) finds a sugar daddy in Thurston Howell III (Mikey Abrams) on ‘Gilligan’s Fire Island.’ (Photo courtesy Mike Morgan)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor

Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 1.42.40 PMThe effectiveness of a spoof depends a lot on the audience’s familiarity with the subject matter being spoofed. If you haven’t seen the source material, then jokes making fun of its conventions tend to fall on deaf ears.

Of course, basically anyone under the age of 65 is familiar with Gilligan’s Island, the mid-’60s sitcom set on a desert island populated by a diverse septet of castaways (sing it with me: “the millionairrrrre … and his wiiiife … the movie starrrr…”). The premise was as far-fetched as a Chris Christie presidency (though Christie might make a good Skipper): they lived the life of Riley with coconut-powered everything, more wardrobe changes than a Cher concert and a parade of guest stars who always seemed to forget to have them rescued.

Jamie Morris specializes in parodies of well-worn reruns that are part of the gay Zeitgeist, and taps into all of these clichés admirably with his world premiere Gilligan’s Fire Island, which Uptown Players presents weekends at the Rose Room. But Morris’ genius here — his brilliant sleight-of-hand — is that Gilligan & Co. are not the target of his spoof: Gay culture is.

The centerpiece of this play — Morris’ best to date, with structure, wit and a fine sense of the characters — isn’t one of the castaways but the so-called “guest star,” a YouTube sensation named Cody Tanner (Angel Velasco). Cody is a shirtless party-boy who counts Twitter followers more than friends, thinks music didn’t exist before Beyoncé and flirts as indiscriminately as an Idaho senator in an airport men’s room. In short, he’s every twink you’ve ever met.

Velasco — lean, muscular and hilarious as hell — steals the show with his rapid-fire head-bobbing, twerking and shade-throwing; he probably delivers half of every line of written dialogue because he chatters on dizzyingly. But as superficial as Cody is, Velasco humanizes him by making him equally sweet. He seems to like everybody, so they like him back. (It’s the popular twink’s secret weapon: sincerity.)

The remainder of the cast — including Morris veterans Kevin Moore as the sexy, centered Professor, Chad Petersen as MaryAnn and Michael Moore as the Marilyn-esque Ginger — are all in top form, but Mikey Abrams, who plays both Mr. Howell (dead-on) and Lovey (excellent as well), embodies his characters most persuasively. (On the other hand, John Michael Colgin as Gilligan is a true Doppelganger for Bob Denver.)

Director B.J. Cleveland captures the Carol Burnett Show tone perfectly, and the “Defying Gravity” bit is the most surprising delight in a totally delightful evening drifting on a sea of laughs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 20, 2015.