Mild buzz
Hazel and the Bugman
Through Aug. 8 at Footlight Theater, the Parliament House
410 N. Orange Blossom Trail

This is the first play written by David Lee, one of the most in-demand actor- writer-directors in Orlando. Originally mounted while Lee was a student at Yale, Hazel and the Bugman was seen in the 1990s at the NYC Fringe and Orlando's Theatre Downtown. This is the first local performance that Lee has directed, and he's revised the script with updated references to Barack Obama and Drew Carey. 

The "kooky kitchen komedy," according to the press release, is about Hazel Brown (Anitra Pritchard), who lives in a brown house on Brown Street and has an MF'ing bug problem. Hairy, horny cockroaches are creeping and copulating all over the beloved refrigerator and dinette set she won on The Price Is Right in 1976. Enter Harry Green (Joe Swanberg), the jut-jawed, burly, bald bug guy in brown shorts. His pump-action aerosol aims to extinguish insects' ardor, but it only inflames Hazel's. After all, she's been a lonely widow since her husband gave his life for his country in Iraq (or was it Vietnam?), and besides, she and Harry share a love of The View and O, the Oprah Magazine

Just when it seems these crazy kids might Zumba into the sunset (it's an exciting fusion of Latin dance and aerobic exercise, you must try it!), Hazel's teenage son Bobby (Josh Paul) interrupts the party with a hand grenade. This emo terrorist in hipster specs and a "God Hates Mo's" T-shirt has a hard day violently rampaging against abortionists and homosexuals, and takes Harry hostage to his murderous right-wing agenda.

Pritchard and Swanberg are two of my favorite performers, and ordinarily they excel at the acidly ironic B-movie camp Lee is aiming for, but this time out they got more grins than belly laughs from me. The cast gamely milks the sexual single entendres and surreal plot twists for all they're worth, but on opening night found their comedic rhythm only intermittently. The script has some classic lines ("You can keep holding the gun, just don't look so defensive") and an admirable affinity for alliteration, but it stretches its premise past the breaking point long before the cannibalistic conclusion.

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