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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hell in a Handbag's Skooby Don't is a definite "Do" (as in do see it)



One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons as a kid was The New Scooby-Doo Movies, which ran for two seasons (1972-73) on CBS. This was the second incarnation of the series after the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70), and the major difference between the two was that the Movies featured a special guest star in each episode. So I tuned in every week to see who was going to help the gang solve their latest mystery, and the groovy line-up of celebrities included Phyllis Diller, Sandy Duncan, Cass Elliot and Sonny & Cher (who all provided voices for their animated selves). It was a lot of fun to watch, and now 40+ years later, Chicago's Hell in a Handbag Productions is offering up their own enjoyable parody of the cartoon classic called Skooby Don't (the names of the characters have also been slightly tweaked since the Scooby-Doo franchise is still producing cartoons).

For those of you who may not be familiar with the 1970s show, the simple premise of each episode had four teenagers - Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy - and their talking dog, Scooby-Doo, solving a mystery, which often involved monsters and ghosts. In Handbag's modern take on the cartoon, Fredd is a flamboyant homosexual, Daffy and Skooby both have self-image issues, Velva is a Bernie Sanders supporter, and Scaggy enjoys smoking weed. And the special guest stars are Cher (Velva's Academy Award-winning aunt), Chaz Bono, and Kris and Caitlyn Jenner, who - along with the gang - have to deal with a mysterious monster roaming the halls and secret passageways of Cher's new hotel. David Cerda's script still captures the silly cartoon vibe of the original, but he also mixes in today's reality series culture that allows everyone to explore social issues of the LGBT community - while running for their lives! And director Derek Van Barham does a good job of juggling so many characters and crazy plot twists.

As always with a Handbag production, the show is filled to the brim with hilarious performances, especially from the five lead actors - Will Kazda as Fredd, Elizabeth Lesinski as Daffy, Caitlin Jackson as Velva, Josh Kemper as Scaggy, and Christopher Wilson as Skooby - who all inhabit their characters with genuine depth and outrageous humor. And I must give kudos to Kemper and Wilson for their amusing speaking voices, which brought back fond memories of their 1970s counterparts. And then there is the scene-stealing Ed Jones, whose fabulous Cher impersonation alone is worth the price of admission. He's just so damn funny - but having seen him on stage many times before, I would expect nothing less. And one final shout-out to Kate Setzer Kamphausen, whose delightfully detailed costumes for the show could not be better.

Skooby Don't is a definite "Do" in my book, meaning I highly recommend that you do see it. You'll have a great time (and if you want to watch the original Scooby-Doo with Sonny & Cher, click here).

Skooby Don't runs through November 4 at Mary's Attic (5400 N. Clark). For tickets, go to www.handbagproductions.org or call (800) 838-3006. You can also purchase tickets to Hell in a Handbag's Annual Benefit - featuring a performance of Showgirls! A Musical - on Sunday, October 16, at Ebenezer Lutheran Hall in Chicago.

Photo credit: Rick Aguilar Studios

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