| ROB TAYLOR AND CHRISTOPHER WELCH |
Hot Gun, the latest effort of producer Jedediah Aaker and director Jeffrey Wonderful—the men responsible for the amped-up, oversexed rock opera Chariots of Rubber—re-imagines the unironic ’80s naval schmaltz-porn of Top Gun as exactly what it always was anyway: a gender-bent rock opera with dudes in sexy, sexy uniforms. Its berth at Dante’s, each Wednesday through June 30, coincides appropriately with the Rose Festival’s Fleet Week, during which we expect to mistake the actors for the audience and vice versa.
The Air Force/Navy thing has always been a little homoerotic, but here it’s a near-nihilist, bro-downed, rock-’n’-roll pansexualism, driven by music from Aaker (Diamond Tuck), Private Mike Albano (Diamond Tuck) and Sam Henry (The Wipers, Napalm Beach). Kelly McGillis is played by a bearded baritone (Christopher Welch) twice the size of Rob Taylor’s nonetheless stage-owning Tom Cruise, while Val Kilmer’s already-homoerotic Iceman is played as a testicle-tugging macho by a very un-male, bemulleted Jordana Ansley. John Kennedy, who sings lead vocals in front of the band’s 80-decibel renditions of Kenny Loggins, also presents in disingenuous blackface as Sundown (who spends much of the play somewhere between a rubdown and a lapdance). Stephen Lisk hilariously plays Tom Skerritt as a sort of angry speed-freak Harvey Fierstein in Japanese noh makeup.
Despite the elaborate production—in which dogfight scenes from the original are made over with Hot Gun’s cast, then projected onto a stage scrim bought by Dante’s for precisely this purpose—nothing here is professional or even coherent, nor was it ever supposed to be.
It’s all sort of a joke, but a joke among friends. Jeffrey Wonderful’s preamble takes pains to distance its efforts from the military industrial complex, and charmingly emphasizes the extent to which the production was made for those involved, above all others. The summer stock-’n’-roll aesthetic, artfully unchoreographed and shruggably brilliant, resembles an old movie naval pageant (coconut bras on bearded men, absent camp or shame) blessed with the underutilized talents peculiar to Portland, where the best of the best wait their turn: whistling toward the gallows, luxuriating ’midst the strange bedfellows foxholes afford, slouching towards the danger zone.
SEE IT: Dante’s, 1 SW 3rd Ave., 226-6630. 9 pm Wednesdays. Closes June 30. $10. 21+.