Now that the mammoth New York Fringe Fest has vanished from the summer theatrical landscape, others are valiantly trying to fill the void. Enter the fledgling Rave Theater Festival, a collection of 20 shows held at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center on the Lower East Side, produced by Tony Award-winner Ken Davenport.
And if “Stormy Weather,” one of the bold, scrappy entrants, is a reliable barometer, the Rave Festival promises to be a worthy successor. The comic drama is written by Michael MacKenzie Wills and directed by Jacob Demlow.
A throwback to madcap sex farces from the 1960s and ‘70s, the loopy play, spiked with gratuitous nudity and sexual acts within earshot if not visible onstage, is set during the height of a fierce storm on a nearly deserted island.
In this case, it is Fire Island in late September, and unexpected visitors have descended on the Pines beach house of Tim Bailey (the exceptional Tim Burke, an original 1999 cast member of “Naked Boys Singing”) and his teenaged daughter, Tina Jane (Kristina Dizon), derailing an intimate evening with Tim’s 22-year-old boytoy, Bobby (a spirited Dillion Everett).
“Just remember he’s 100 percent bottom. A power bottom at that,” Tim curiously says to his daughter after she confesses to having an innocent crush on Bobby.
The visitors are actually survivors, washed ashore after their yacht was struck by lightning. Oh yeah, and one of them happens to be Tim’s ex-husband, Mark (Charles Manning), along with his wealthy bear of a boyfriend, Harry (Michael O. Tubman), who is also Tim’s former boss. Along for the ride is Harry’s son (a perfectly cast Robert Bradvica) who falls hard and fast — emphasis on hard — for Tina Jane. Injecting extra comic juice to the mix are a wisecracking, horny Quebecois houseboy (Noah Pyzik) and a hippie stoner deckhand (Zach Reyes). Odd sexual couplings erupt out of nowhere and it’s no big deal.
And if you think the plot is absurdly farfetched, ask anyone who has endured a summer share in the Pines. Except for the shipwreck part, wacked-out stuff like this really does happen. All the time.
A running joke among Tim, Mark, and Tina Jane is quoting phrases from classic musicals and movies, like “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” and “You’re tearing me apart.” Even the play’s title is lifted from a 1943 movie musical. If you don’t catch these references, I suggest you turn in your queer card pronto.
Like the plot of one of those movie classics, the melodrama intensifies along with the storm raging outside, with hurricane force winds and hailstones the size of quarters, stranding all of them and forcing them to confront one another — and themselves. Once the clouds have parted, clarity hits and heady questions about careers, who to marry, and what’s really important in life are answered. Previously messy lives are neatly tied up in a pretty pastel bow.
True to the summer theater fest tradition, the micro-budget “Stormy Weather” is ragged around the edges, with scant production values and a mixed bag of performances. Suspend disbelief when characters come in from the pouring rain with fluffy dry hair and clothes. Don’t fret when a promising game of Celebrity is laboriously set up but not paid off, or when a corny punch line misses its mark.
But the play’s heart — and funny bone — are firmly in the right place. And who doesn’t need a strong dose of goofy escapism these days? As Tim might be inclined to say, “Forget your troubles, come on get happy.”
STORMY WEATHER | Rave Theater Festival | Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk St. at Rivington St. | Aug. 15 at 9:15 p.m., Aug. 20 & 22 at 9 p.m., Aug. 25 at 1:45 p.m. | $25 at RaveTheate