Teddy Baskins (Vinnie Urdea) is a creative guy. Teddy designs and sews sought-after dresses. Teddy also invents sci-fi-worthy gadgets. An earnest, good-hearted, unassuming type, he works long hours in Jasper Sloan’s (Nicholas Connolly) dress shop and dreams of finding a woman who shares his enthusiasm for gadgets. A chance encounter with heiress Victoria “V” Warner (Caitlin Wees) on New Year’s Eve 1920 pulls Teddy out of his routine and his shop, ultimately steering his path to Mexico and a hunt for the eponymous creature of Beware the Chupacabra!
R. Patrick Alberty and Christian De Gré’s musical comedy, part of the 19th annual New York International Fringe Festival, begins with characters who, in parallel to Teddy’s dreams of changing the world through his gadgets, are convinced that the new decade will usher in a new Golden Age, fulfilling the American promise of prosperity for all. The presence and arrest of a homeless man (a darkly realistic, though short-lived element in the play’s otherwise brightly colored and heightened world) raises some doubt about this particular utopian dream. Even the Warners, whose patriarch, Arris (Everett O’Neill), hates Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressives, are fighting a downward financial trajectory. Arris is a leading member of the League of American Diplomats and Sportsmen, or LADS, a group of like-minded rich men who want to use the political and legal systems to ensure that their lifestyle of drinking and shooting animals continues unabated. Victoria inconveniently brings the decidedly not-wealthy Teddy home during an important meeting of the LADS, and it is Arris who, with ulterior motives, eventually sends Teddy on his golden fleece-style quest to Mexico. During this second half of Chupacabra, the thematic emphasis shifts somewhat to fame as Teddy is tempted with nationwide recognition (tied, of course, to wealth). It also settles into familiar classic monster movie tropes, as Teddy discovers that La Chupacabra (Charly Dannis) is not exactly what everyone thinks.
Some of the humor in Chupacabra comes from metatheatrical moments (characters know that they are singing and discuss who is the lead and who is the villain), but much of it is Broad(way musical) comedy, playing on stereotypes such as the Spoiled Rich Girl, the Great White Hunter, and (sometimes unfortunately) the Garrulous Mexican Cantina Owner (Robert Moreira as Tipo, the only character whose ethics and loyalties are never corrupted) and his Mariachi-Style Clientele. The cast members acquit themselves well, from the comic breakdown of Eric Whitten’s henchman Grimsby to the ways that Wees’s petulant Victoria wields her sexuality as a weapon and Dannis’s sinuous, uncanny Chupacabra learns about being something like a human while still preoccupied with goat-sucking and consuming flesh. Vinnie Urdea’s performance as Teddy is outstanding: his comedic delivery is consistently excellent, but he can also evoke pathos when necessary -- and, it is worth mentioning, he nails a difficult, rapid-fire song late in the proceedings.
Beware the Chupacabra! will appeal to those who like their musical theater quirky but not too dark. The music is catchy, the sets clever, and the comedy light. Voted a fan favorite at FringeNYC, this chupacabra is nothing to beware. - Leah Richards and John Ziegler
Dr. Richards is an English professor in NYC, and spends her free time raising three cats and smashing the patriarchy.
When not writing reviews, Dr. Ziegler spends a lot of his time being an Assistant Professor of English in NYC and playing guitar in a death metal band.