Gosh, I learned a lot of science at Thursday’s opening of The Tamarie Cooper Show: Journey to the Center of My Brain (in 3-D!)
Did you know you can be swept away, literally, by your own stream of consciousness and washed up on your memory bank? Or that a slew of endorphins, hormones, impulses, egos and ids, remembered past and projected future selves are running around, singing, dancing and battling one another for control of your mind and destiny at any given moment?
Gee, science is fun!
Well, certainly as presented by the endearingly daffy Cooper and her inexhaustibly crazy crew.
Cooper’s annual summer musical has become something of an institution on Houston’s theater scene. Her current Journey ranks with the best of the original Tamalalia series produced for 10 years by the defunct Infernal Bridegroom Productions. It starts in high gear with the insanely enthusiastic opening number and seldom lets up for its tight 90-minute running time.
Having opted for domestic bliss in last year’s installment, which concluded with her pondering parenthood, Cooper does her bit for narrative continuity by arriving seven months pregnant. She explains that one of the side effects is insomnia, which leads to watching TV infomercials all night and ordering unnecessary products. Why, here’s a package with some recent purchases now! One is a CD whose narrator guides the listener through self-hypnosis on an inner journey to the true self. And with Paul Locklear supplying the voice of the snarky narrator (“Repeat that again, this time without the attitude”) we’re off, accompanying Cooper on her head trip.
She quickly discovers the reason for her weak willpower with regard to such temptations as ice cream. Her Self Control (hilariously played by Kyle Sturdivant) is jaded, bitter and just doesn’t care anymore. They bat the issue around in a mock lament called (aptly enough) I’ve Lost Control.
Next, relentlessly partying Dopamine (Walt Zipprian), insanely aggressive Adrenalin (Jeremy Carlson) and the rest of their uncontrollable crew roar onto the scene and persuade Cooper to unwind with a few drinks. The result is a besotted medley culminating in the staggering chorus of Drink, Drank, Drunk.
That rowdy crowd flees in terror at the arrival of the Raging Hormones, who’ve been running amok since Cooper became pregnant. Rebecca Randall leads the Greek-goddess-like trio as they exert their irresistible power over Cooper and explain their role motivating Delilah, Joan of Arc and other fabled, willful women.
So it goes. Things keep popping up, one leading to another. Swept away on her stream of consciousness, one moment Cooper is bedeviled by Cat Stevens (repeating one line of Wild Worldbecause Cooper can’t remember the rest of the song), the next moment she’s appalled by the steamroller arguments of Ann Coulter (Zipprian again, and supremely sardonic in his most hilarious turn.)
Making withdrawals from her memory bank recalls Cooper’s girlhood crushes on Gilligan and then on Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy (in an exceptional portrayal by Sean Patrick Judge.)
The show does seem to be casting about for a conclusion in a sequence that finds the entire cast decked out as various avatars of Cooper, each claiming to be her real true self. Yet Cooper hits on a timely way out.
As director and choreographer, Cooper keeps everything brisk and playful. She and the company perform with eagerness and boundless energy throughout. Patrick Reynolds’ script, if not consistent, is more often funny than not. The music and lyrics, created by seven writers, are somewhat spotty, yet mostly ride on cleverness and a fresh, improvisational feeling.
Like all of Cooper’s shows, Journey is the theatrical equivalent of a handmade gift, as opposed to a store-bought, mass-produced item. Stamped with Cooper’s winning personality and sense of humor, the show has all over it the loving fingerprints of everyone involved, from the cast, to the band led by John Duboise, to the ingenious design team including Jodi Bobrovsky (sets), Tim Thomson (the funny video montages) and Tina Montgomery (who, with Cooper, created the wild costumes).
I don’t think you’ll find back-to-back numbers celebrating the heroes of Gilligan’s Island and Pride and Prejudice in any other show. But then, that’s what makes it The Tamarie Cooper Show.