Grab your pinot and your pumps, because Denver’s most intoxicating (and intoxicated) debutantes are here.
And drink up — they’re a farcical feast of beguiling buffoonery.
Now onstage at the always cheeky Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, “The Realish Housewives of Cherry Creek” is a terse parody basted in all sorts of lip-smacking chintz. If you’re looking for seriousness, look away now.
Directed by Eric Hoff, this incarnation of “Realish” is the localized manifestation of a national skeleton. Written by Second City alums Kate James and Tim Sniffen, the show is in the midst of a national tour that peppers each stop with rib-tickling local shticks — there have recently been Realish women of West Hartford, Raleigh and Clifton Park. It’s a brilliant equation for showcasing truly magnificent improv. A steady diet of references to local politicians (Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Diana DeGette), publications (The Denver Post) and locales (Commerce City, Shotgun Willies) cleverly lures voyeuristic locals — mostly those who are sadistically interested in watching the embodiments of their neighbors get roasted onstage. Local winks aside, the fact that the script is constantly on the operating table makes for delightful, uber-relevant fare for pop culture fiends, a nod to “Becky with the good hair” being a masterful example.
Unless you’ve been living under a bottle of Botox for the past decade, you know that the show is based on Bravo’s breakout reality television nightmare, “The Real Housewives of [Fill in the Blank Hive of Wealth].” Following a successful run in Orange County, Calif., in 2006, the show and its spinoffs have since featured a never-ending luggage carousel of collagen-riddled hooligans from Melbourne to Miami.
Mirroring its on-screen counterpart, the stage production centers on a quintet of reality show archetypes: The ditz, the political power-monger, the tycoon, the puppeteer and the “normal”-ish one. Of course, in the reality television spirit of always creating controversy, you can add the suffix “turned-psycho-hosebeast” onto any of the aforementioned epithets. Audience members get pummeled by the character’s zingy egos from the get-go, gleaning snipes during “on-air sit-downs” and grimacing during flashback vignettes that depict former verbal melees.
Bursting with fellow Second City-ites, the six-person cast (and one verbose audience member who, frankly, stole a bit of the show on opening night) is a powerful, new-age brat pack, brimming with personages whose quest for attention is only eclipsed by the sheen radiating from their Pantene-kissed coiffures. Lindsey Pearlman as the combustible Brooke, who makes her shekels writing “catchy” phrases on the seats of premium sweat pants, is a magnetic diva with more than a few Omarosa-like inclinations. That she’s constantly swathed in a blood-colored pantsuit only enhances her prepossessing insanity. Lori McClain as the maybe-Eastern European Ravonka is Pearlman’s boozy Regina George, the self-proclaimed queen bee who dishes out more than a few hissing jibes. Alongside the two bejeweled torch bearers, Desiree (Emjoy Gavino), Gwen (Katie Caussin) and C.L. (Katy Carolina Collins) slip in their share of spicy slights as sound designer Katharine Horowitz’ kitschy soundscape exempts no one from delivering well-perfumed haymakers. Purposefully over-the-top string music wallops punchlines with a paintball gun instead of merely tickling them with a highlighter — subtlety is not the show’s pantsuit. Randy Bowen (Jackson Evans) deftly referees the antics.
But don’t be mistaken: Though the show may be crawling with ribald barbs, it is not wholly vacuous. Where “Realish” sincerely scores is in its horrifying ability to hold a mirror to the audience’s most grotesque indulgences and tendencies. Sniping at “friends” in hopes of scuttling up the social ladder? Check. Tossing around wealth to bring about your friends’ greenest hues? And how. Passively plucking at the inadequacies of those around you in order to make up for your own self-loathing? By the bottle-load. Like any good parody, it’s funny because it’s absolutely true.