In the realm of teenage romance, the quest for a suitable prom date can prove to be an arduous task. Such is the predicament faced by three inseparable friends as they navigate their senior year and the impending high school prom. Each girl possesses a unique perspective on the romantic and sexual prospects within their male classmates. However, an unexpected twist arises when they find unconventional solutions to their prom date conundrum – deceased boyfriends.
“The Quandary of Deceased Partners” is a captivating musical comedy/horror production that tackles the aforementioned prom date issue through the incorporation of “dead” boyfriends. The show, a brainchild of Annie Pulsipher (book and lyrics) and Alex Petti (music, lyrics, and orchestration), seamlessly blends elements of horror, comedy, and high school drama. Directed by Stephen M. Eckert, the performance adeptly balances the comical aspects of teenage angst with the macabre nature of paranormal beings.
Within this fast-paced and oftentimes humorous production, viewers are treated to a riveting fusion of action, humor, and horror. One notable scene, the “Dissection Dance,” channels the iconic choreography of “The Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Furthermore, the choice to name the high school “George R. Romero High School” pays homage to the renowned director’s seminal zombie horror films. Evident in the ensemble’s impeccable comedic timing, the show embarks on an entertaining escapade through the psyche of three adolescent girls: Madison, Stella, and Grace. Although the production would benefit from a larger stage and a broader cast, it remains an enjoyable and unique theatrical experience.
Set in 2007 during their senior year, the imminent Senior Prom looms large for Madison, Stella, and Grace. The girls yearn for suitable dates and are willing to embrace unconventional options, irrespective of their date’s condition. Madison, buoyed by her cheerleader demeanor and unwavering self-assuredness, already has a boyfriend. However, she hesitates to count him as her official prom date until he formally asks her to the dance. In a biology class, he creatively accomplishes this task, resulting in a humorous twist. On the other hand, studious Grace, well-versed in the arts of witchcraft, unwittingly summons the ghost of a 17-year-old boy who met an untimely demise. With no means of banishing him, she decides to take him as her date. Lastly, Stella, displaying the maturity of someone beyond her years, manages to attract a vampire who harbors sinister intentions. The prom itself becomes a rollercoaster of comedic and horrifying moments, culminating in an adventurous romp.
Madison is brought to life by Zoe Dean, imbuing the quintessential cheerleader with boundless energy, charisma, and confidence. While her singing voice remains solid, some songs occasionally betray a slight pitchiness. Madison’s dream boyfriend, Zachery, is flawlessly portrayed by Patrick Voss Davis, whose depiction pays tribute to characters from classic horror films. Stella, a quick-witted and sassy teenager, employs cynicism as a defense mechanism to conceal her insecurities. Heather Sawyer flawlessly captures the character’s duality, oscillating between self-assuredness and moments of vulnerability. Sawyer’s powerful singing voice adds depth and emotion to each lyrical moment. Stella’s boyfriend, Lucian, is a vampire reminiscent of the Twilight movie series, exemplified by Will Einbinder’s punk aesthetic and callous manipulation of others’ emotions.
Lastly, Grace, the academically inclined friend, conceals her desire for reckless abandon behind an intellectual facade. Alia Cuadros-Contreras masterfully portrays Grace’s inner struggle between academic perfectionism and a yearning for adventure. Her boyfriend, Silence Mather Thackeray, is a ghost from a Puritan family who lost his life at the tender age of 17. Hagan Oliveras delivers a credible performance as the 289-year-old adolescent specter.
Throughout the lead-up to the Senior Prom, the audience gains deeper insight into each significant character thanks to the talented ensemble. Among them, Stephanie Hawkins shines as Smiley Cindy, the student body president, Prom Committee head, and office aide. Patrick Swailes Caldwell, on the other hand, delivers a standout performance as Coach Snell, the 50-year-old physical education teacher and coach. Their comedic timing is impeccable, both in their primary roles and in their portrayal of secondary characters. Hawkins brings to life the endearing yet somewhat socially awkward student that teachers love, yet struggles to connect with her peers. Meanwhile, Caldwell evokes laughter as Coach Snell, recently returned from sensitivity training due to his inappropriate interactions with female students.
The production team behind “The Quandary of Deceased Partners” is a versatile group, with many members assuming multiple roles. For instance, Will Einbinder not only portrays the character of Lucien but also serves as the choreographer. Additionally, Stephen M. Eckert, besides directing the show, also oversees the scenic design. Alex Petti, responsible for the music, lyrics, and orchestration, also lends his talents to sound design. Olivia Vaughn Hern’s costume design and Andres DG Hunt’s lighting design provide crucial support to the production.
“The Quandary of Deceased Partners” is presented by Black Watch Theatre and TWDB LLC at The Players Theatre, located at 115 MacDougal Street in Manhattan. Running for a limited time until July 16, 2023, the show’s runtime is approximately one hour and 50 minutes, including one intermission. Tickets can be obtained at Six Minute Dates.
With its unique blend of horror, comedy, and high school drama, “The Quandary of Deceased Partners” offers an unforgettable theatrical experience. Join Madison, Stella, and Grace as they embark on a prom night adventure like no other, propelled by their unconventional choices in deceased boyfriends. Prepare to be entertained, enchanted, and perhaps even spooked as the show presents a feminist twist on the universal themes of teenage love and self-discovery.