In "Zanna, Don't!" playwright Tim Acito invents a fast-moving, love-focused inverted world in which gay relationships are the norm, straight relationships are shocking, and musical theater is a platform for change (which is sometimes true, but there generally aren't gasps when a boy and a girl kiss). The message, simple and sweet, is delivered through Acito's hilarious, imaginative lyrics. "Zanna, Don't!" is high-spirited, funny and at times downright campy.
Zanna (Andrew Etheredge) is a teenage "fairy" who frolics his skinny self through Heartfield High, waving his magic wand, matching up girls with girls and guys with guys. This same-sex pairing is typical in this alternative universe, where the captain of the chess team is the sex symbol and the smart girl heads up the lesbian mechanical-bull-riding dance squad. An unexpected problem occurs when a kiss during the school musical (about the controversial topic of "heteros" in the military) reveals a love between -- heaven forbid a boy and a girl. Confusion and crisis follow as the town grapples with feelings about these "weirdos."
Winks to the status quo of gay life abound in lines such as, "What kind of school would this be if the captain of the football team didn't star in the school musical?" The costumes come from the same gay bizarre-world the shiny pink and green very-wide-mesh-so-we-can-see-his-yummy-pecs football jersey worn by the football team captain, for example, and some extremely tight green hot pants worn by Zanna during a military dance number.
The entire cast wields these clever lines and adventurous costumes well, but Joy Marie Newsome's performance as the feisty lesbian, Roberta, emerges from the fabulous stew. A recent Virginia Commonwealth University graduate, Newsome blows out Fielden's tiny theater with her un-mic'd voice in songs like "Ain't Got Time" and "Whatcha Got?" Her comedic timing jerks howls of laughter from the audience, but she has the poise to give the other actors their space to be the focal point.
Etheredge as Zanna demonstrates great versatility during the song-and-dance number, "Don't Ask Don't Tell," in which he switches from "fairy" to "butch-with-a-twist." He is comfortable being the center of attention think Marilyn Monroe in her "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" act (done in a military theme). The surprise musical performance, though, comes from Durron Marquis Tyre, who lets loose past the halfway mark with "Straight to Heaven." He reveals a talented voice that was, until that point, kept in the closet by the pink football jerseys and bull-riding lesbians. S
The Richmond Triangle Players production of "Zanna, Don't!" runs through Oct. 13 at Fieldens Cabaret Theatre. Tickets are $16-$22. Call 346-8113 or visit www.rtriangle.org.