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Theatre Review (LA): Doctor Cerberus by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa at South Coast Repertory

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Are you a fan of late night horror films? Ever wanted to meet the likes of Vampire host who speaks in bad puns and shows B movies? Well then you would like Doctor Cerberus that recently played at South Coast Repertory. The play concerns the obsession of young Franklin Robertson, played by one of my favorite young actors Bret Rybeck who not only acts (he was in History Boys at the Ahmanson) but also composes music (the recent Liberty Inn at the Andak Stage Company). He also nearly stole the recent 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at La Mirada. Rybeck doesn’t disappoint here. He is suitably creepy, a real loser, but Rybeck makes you care about his fate.

His character dreams of becoming the salary less intern on the late night Saturday horror show hosted by a camp Doctor Cerberus (Jamison Jones)). He spends his time writing his own horror scripts and finally succeeds in selling a few scripts. None of this pleases his overly protective parents (Stephen Culp and Candy Buckley who play the nasty parents). He is made fun of by his teachers and his jock older brother (well played by Jarrett Sleeper).

Writer Roberto Aguirre- Sacasa has also written several Marvel comics including Spider Man and Fantastic Four. He knows his field and the kind of loyal and obsessive fans of the genre. He gets lots of laughs out of the material but also recognizes the dark side of comics. This dark side is brought to light by Robertson’s emerging homosexuality. He is totally alienated from his family. He has a gay uncle, but he is banned from the house once the parents find out he is gay. He later dies of AIDS.

The rest of the family has their crosses to bear. Franklyn’s mother is frustrated by all the men in her life. She is a bitter and unfulfilled woman. Robertson’s brother has his own delusions about working for the Washington Redskins, an impossible ambition. Robertson’s father is an emasculated man, disappointed with his sons. The play gets into some pretty dark areas of family dysfunction and ends up being a plea for understanding. Bart Lorenzo has directed this with his usual skill and attention to detail. Doctor Cerberus played at South Coast Repertory from April 11 to May 2nd.

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