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Review: Cherokee Street Theater’s ‘The Thing Holiday Parody’ Is a Fun, Frenetic Frolic

Review: Cherokee Street Theater’s ‘The Thing Holiday Parody’ Is a Fun, Frenetic Frolic

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Play: “The Thing Holiday Parody”

Company: Cherokee Street Theater Company

Venue: Cherokee Street Theater, 2720 Cherokee St., St. Louis

Dates: Dec. 10 and 11

Tickets: $10 to $25; visit cherokeestreettheatercompany.com

Highlights: Cherokee Street Theater Company pays loving homage to the 1982 John Carpenter movie version of “The Thing” with its funny, madcap “The Thing Holiday Parody,” complete with a “splatter zone” where goo and gunk may land on patrons. Let the buyer be prepared.

Story: An American expeditionary crew in Antarctica encounters a helicopter from a nearby Norwegian camp attempting to kill a runaway sled dog. Not understanding the pilot’s shouts, they kill him. The surviving dog is placed with the Americans’ sled dogs, where it assimilates their characteristics before the crew kills it.

McReady, the Americans’ helicopter pilot, and the unit’s physician, Dr. Copper, fly to the Norwegian camp and find everyone there dead. Near that camp, they come across an excavation site that has uncovered an ancient alien spacecraft. They return to the Americans with the news of their discovery.

A scientific researcher among the crew analyzes the creature and determines that it can absorb and imitate other organisms, including humans. As the crew members become increasingly fearful and paranoid about who is who, the “thing” from an alien world goes on a killing rampage as it jumps from body to body.

It’s up to McReady, who assumes control of the unit, and the other researchers to figure out a way to contain and kill the organism before it escapes Antarctica and infects the entire planet.

Other Info: Director Suki Peters gets total buy-in for these crazed antics from her enthusiastic and energetic cast, who frolic about the ragtag set to great delight. Michael Musgrave-Perkins’ sound design makes sly references to the original’s Ennio Morricone score, and James Spurlock’s lighting design contributes to some of the “spookier” darker scenes.

Costume designer Kayla Lindsay dresses the players in a variety of cold-climate garb and especially hits the mark with the swashbuckling look for maverick pilot McReady, who is played to his rakish best by Ben Ritchie, chugging brews with abandon while on his quest to slay a dragon or some such.

Also of great enjoyment are the funky props and weird puppet designs by Stan Davis and Amy Kelly, who bring considerable attention and care to the more recognizable aspects of the film. There’s even a priceless scene with Chuck Brinkley, in the Wilford Brimley role, sitting at a table with a box of Quaker Oats while rambling on about “diabet-iss,” references to two of Brimley’s more famous TV ads.

The crew is prone to lots of drinking, especially when the word “thing” is mentioned, but all players are up for the wide-eyed parody Peters delivers to an appreciative audience. In addition to Ritchie and Brinkley, both of whom hit the mark in their roles, there’s infectiously humorous work by Ron Strawbridge as Childs, McReady’s untrusting counterpart.

In addition, multiple parts in Peters’ fast-paced high jinks are played to fine comic effect by Rachel Bailey, Ted Drury, Joseph Garner, Payton Gillam, Donald Kidd, Ryan Lawson-Maeske, Rob McLemore, Victor Mendez, Tina Scholl and Nic Tayborn.

“The Thing” – which is based on a 1938 novella by science fiction writer-editor John W. Campbell Jr. titled “Who Goes There?” – was first made into a movie by Howard Hawks in 1951 as “The Thing From Another World.” That flick featured a little-known actor named James Arness as the title character a few years before he hit pay dirt as Marshal Matt Dillon in TV’s “Gunsmoke.”

Carpenter’s 1982 version considerably upped the ante in the scares department and has retained its powers to frighten and creep out viewers nearly 40 years later. Kudos to Peters and Cherokee Street Theater Company for its amusing one-hour parody. Stick around until the end for the “holiday” aspect.

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