Amy Seeley and Jenny Kirkland's parody of violent buddy movies outstones Oliver Stone. Midway through Beaver Hunt! two crooks on the lam produce one-pound zip-lock baggies of narcotics, and in no time the convertible they're riding in is washed in red light, they're dancing on the seats, mysterious shadowy figures blow soap bubbles, a cow's skull illuminated with Christmas tree lights floats by, and a Ken Nordine-style beat poem drones in the background. This scene is not only as well crafted (and subtle) as anything in Natural Born Killers, it's imbued with a great deal more humor and heart.
By the time it took place, I'd forgotten to think about the significance of the two criminals being women--it's clear from the first that there will be no tearful Thelma and Louise justifications here, no earth-mother bullshit. Max McClane (Seeley, who also directs) and Marty Riggs (Kirkland) are two bad-to-the-bone broads. They'd torture and destroy the men around them even if the guy's weren't such assholes. Forever premenstrual, they just kind of enjoy ripping things up.
Terribly incorrect behavior, politically speaking. Don't these ladies know that women (unlike men) must have good cause to go on a rampage? Maybe assaulted, abused, or made bulimic? Compelled by a conspiratorial male society to wax their bikini lines? Kirkland and Seeley make no such excuses. Their outlaws are so nasty, Menendez lawyer Leslie Abramson couldn't get them an acquittal, not even for blowing away the moronic morning disc-jockey team that plagues the airwaves.
When I heard that Kirkland and Seeley, who have complained about the boys' club that holds sway over most improv groups, were going to mount something that sounded like Thelma and Louise by way of Quentin Tarantino, I was thrilled. Surely they'd come up with something not only funny but profound. An insight not yet explored: explain for me, please, the appeal of Bruce Willis's frozen smirk framed by a samurai sword. Or a woman's viewpoint on de rigueur violence in popular cinema--though what I object to in Tarantino's films is not the mindless violence. It's that I feel like an observer, never a participant. It seems to me these films are adolescent male fantasies; they're fun, but I feel left out. There's no one for me to imagine myself as.
But within the first five minutes of Factory Theatre's hilarious one-hour parody, I realized that Seeley and Kirkland aren't much interested in explaining this phenomenon--they're more interested in crashing the party. They invite themselves onto the boys' side of the playground and prove that they can be as mean, swaggering, and bent on destruction as the next guy. They want to rape, pillage, and humiliate the waiter at Bennigan's.
Girls just wanna have fun.
They don't want to sit around interpreting men's actions. They want to participate. And so they give us a rollicking lampoon of action movies that doesn't even remotely suggest two women playwrights with an agenda; rather, they're two sharp individuals with an eye for the absurd and a love of the genre. Onstage they wield their guns, spit invective at their enemies, and sexually terrorize hapless, gentle hitchhikers. They're pursued by the usual tough-talking guys in suits, ties, and earrings, aided by an extraordinarily disparate band of vigilantes that includes a mechanic with an uncanny sense of smell, a sensitive Stevie Nicks fan, and a mildly retarded waiter. The tribute to Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo--a slow-motion shoot-out finale with even the gentlest of the characters flourishing guns in simultaneous standoffs--is more entertaining than any agenda.
The only male bashing here takes place literally, on the stage, out in the open. And if all the men prove themselves idiots, well, Max and Marty aren't exactly brain surgeons either.
But they're damn good shots.