Intoxicating 'Avenger' at Playhouse

If Blind People Won't Love Ugly People, Who Will?

Roger Martin, ATCA

Julie Kleiner and Clay Cartland by Alberto Romeu.


Julie Kleiner and Clay Cartland by Alberto Romeu.

Years ago, the phrase “Nuke The Gay Whales for Jesus” pretty much summed up our collective thinking, but now we're a kinder people. We care. For the environment, for the handicapped, for seniors and the under privileged. Now we ask ourselves: “If blind people won't love ugly people, who will?” Where will you find a more penetratingly honest question?

That's easy. Go see The Toxic Avenger at Actors' Playhouse. You'll find two hours of caustic wit, rock classics such as Kick Your Ass, My Big French Boy Friend, Thank God She's Blind and the immemorial Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore.

Thank Joe Dipietro and David Bryan, who teamed on the Tony winning Memphis, for the book, music and lyrics of The Toxic Avenger. Brilliant stuff. But no more brilliant than the performances of actors Clay Cartland, Julie Kleiner, Laura Hodos, Dexter Carr and Joshua Dobarganes.

Cartland is the environmentalist nerd Melvin Ferd the Third, whose first act entrance is a thing of acting beauty, the physicality of nerdness defined. He is transformed into The Toxic Avenger (that New Jersey sludge will get you every time) or Toxie, as Sarah (Kleiner), the blind librarian, calls him. And I defy anyone in the house to find a gag about blind librarians that isn't in this show and that Kleiner doesn't pull off without the help of even one seeing eye dog.

Hodos plays bad girl Mayor Babs Belgoody, Melvin's mother Ma Ferd, and a nun. Being Hodos, she's wonderful in every role and busting out all over the place in Evil is Hot with Professor Ken, played by Carr, who is also known as the Black Dude. The White Dude is played by Dobarganes and he and Carr are also New Jersey natives Bozo and Sluggo and in drag as back up singers Diane and Shinequa. Dobarganes is also Sal the Cop and the Folk Singer.

The Toxic Avenger Band, led by David Nagy (musical director) on keyboard, Martha Spangler on bass, Julie Jacobs on drums and percussion, Sandy Poltarack on guitar and Andrea Gilbert on reeds scorched nineteen musical numbers plus a couple of reprises covering every facet of ruining the planet, cheating pols, New Jersey Jewish mothers, extruded eyeballs and that it's still okay to be non PC. Love, in an ugly green suit, is all.

David Arisco musically staged and directed the show with much humor in every minute. Fine, fine, feel good stuff.

The Toxic Avenger is playing in the upstairs balcony theater which has been changed into a combination thrust and in the round configuration. Gene Seyfer and Jodi Dellaventura designed the set, Eric Nelson the lighting, Shaun Mitchell the sound and Ellis Tillman the costume and wig adaptation.

And a shout out to the people behind the backdrops for the innumerable super quick costume changes. Impressive.

The Toxic Avenger plays through Nov. 8 at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-444-4181

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