With a plastic cup of cabernet sauvignon in my hand, I couldn’t remember another time I laughed so hard on a Friday night, alone. Well, I wasn’t technically alone since I was sitting in a dimly lit room with, say, thirty other people.
But it WAS a Friday night and I had traveled to midtown’s New World Stages to witness the wackiness circulating the off-Broadway play “Devil Boys from Beyond.”
The hilarious script made its public debut during the previous year’s New York International Fringe Festival and broke box office records, despite limited stage props and an inability to pay their talents. But the funny lines and chemistry between those involved kept the show sold out every night as people lined the streets to witness the success of a low budget production.
Then, Buddy Thomas took his science-fiction spoof and collaborated with Kenneth Elliott to produce an even more bizarre script.
Despite a stomach-clenching comedic act that was fresh, unique and everything else you wanted in a performance, the play ended nearly three weeks early for one main reason: money.
Devil Boys’ budget was set at a standard (in regards to off-Broadway productions) $100,000 but when the show didn’t instantly take off and expenses kept racking up as the weeks continued, the show came to an abrupt end before its time was up.
When I heard of the news, I was heartbroken. Honestly, the play made me laugh, cry and think. But aside from the storyline...it was the chemistry…I could feel the chemistry from my seat in the audience. And if there wasn’t chemistry behind the curtains, well, the actors certainly knew how to pretend there was when the spotlight hit them.
“Simply to me, that’s what theater is all about – connecting the actors to the audience,” said Elliott, director and co-author. “It’s how I got my start…doing shows in clubs in the East Village when I moved to New York.”
Elliott talked about the good ol’ days when he was involved in plays like “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” and the whole performance was acted out in front of a backdrop in some dark club.
With all that said, you must be prepared for operating preview losses associated with off-Broadway productions, Elliott explained.
“Usually it takes a few weeks where there are previews that you have to pay for,” he said. “Advertising is extremely expensive...contingency funds… in most theater budgets, there are significant items needed in capitalization.”
With all the attention that a big money production can receive before its art is even shared with the world, the low budget entertainment industry – the “underdog” of show business – must take on creative endeavors to fight against the big money.