Eating Out: Drama Camp

4 stars out of five
by S. James Wegg
Publish Date: September 17, 2011
CQC722
Drama queens unite!

Happy to report that the self-deprecating line (“sequels usually suck”) is nowhere to be seen in the most recent addition to the Eating Out series. Even as the production values improve, the writing, acting and mandatory skin parade keep, er, up with those, ah, rising standards, resulting in a saucy sex comedy that zips along easily and never takes itself too seriously.

This time the relationship roulette table is laid at Dick Dickey’s (Drew Droege revels in the camp and campiness of the failed actor turned teacher) Drama Camp. A covey of queer thespians with a smattering of straight folk (notably series newcomer Garikayi Mutambira as Jason, the breeder-director who loves nothing better than shooting “HomoCidal” short films …) and an alluring transsexual (last seen in these pages in Gun Hill Road, Harmony Santana continues to impress, this time as Lilly).

The slight plot revolves around a scene competition where the winning director and actors will get a dream vacation in Palm Springs (and likely an encore performance role in the The Open Weekend—the next installment is already in post-production). All of the hopefuls must use “updated” scenes from Shakespeare as their material (think Stratford goes to Provincetown). Jason opts for one from The Taming of the Shrew where the leading men, Petruchio and Hortensio, will make no secret of their passion for each other even as Kate watches on (“He hath the jewel of my life in hold” is artfully reworked to set up the smooch that soon knows no bounds, methinks).

Before the actors assemble, Zack (Chris Salvatore as engaging as ever) and Casey (definitely more blonde than redhead Daniel Skelton) are not clicking as much under the sheets as they hope to in front of an audience or camera. The opening “head” sequence as “plumber” Zack puts a drain on his hunky employer (replete with soap on the floor and a wee blood-and water-homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho), only to have this coitus permanently interuptus by slasher Casey, might well play out in real life. Once at camp, both of the troubled couple have others pinning for their affections (Aaron Milo’s Benji rashly decides to become temporarily straight to avoid being tarred as a home wrecker while “Do you mind if I sleep in the nude?”—no one does …—Beau becomes Casey’s instant defender and protector; unflappably rendered by Ronnie Kroell).

No viewer will be surprised that when the audition dust settles, Zack’s assignment requires a lengthy pucker with Benji that will either split current lovers apart or bring others together.

Elsewhere on the set, Penny (Lilach Mendelovich is a hoot as the work/study student who, literally, must clean up everyone’s shit in order to maintain her scholarship) goes about her messy chores with joy while back home Casey’s Aunt Helen (for good reason, Mink Stole greedily licks her chops with her prey-man) is an insatiable cougar. Rounding out the stereotypes is Marikah Cunningham’s petulant take on spoiled rich-bitch, Genevieve who will only land parts so long as her cheques don’t bounce.

As usual, things get pretty silly (who knew that monogrammed briefs rubbed with poison oak leaves could become an important plot point!) but writer (along with Philip J. Bartell)/director Q. Allan Brocka keeps his scenes short and to the point, revealing just enough of his cast’s members to keep any crowd hoping for a bit more dénouement in their next appearance.

There is also a show-stopping music theatre number (more than making up for the “Gleetards groaner) that is just plain fun thanks to Kevin Stea’s basic yet invigorating choreography set to Meiro Stamm’s peppy score with Brocka’s lyrics deftly belted out by Salvatore and the one-two punch of Amada Treyz’s inventive cinematography along with Bartell’s snappy editing.

No drama queen, their subjects or pretenders will be disappointed with this frothy adventure where, when everything works out for the better, the possibilities are endless. JWR

Sequel Alert: The series ought to have ended here—Eating Out: The Open Weekend fails on nearly every front, missing the zip, zest and occasional heat of its predecessors.

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