Campy ‘Hooked on a Fruitcake’ a delight

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How does one describe a Martini and Olive routine? It’s part stand-up act, part musical lampoon – a parody of both Christmastime and the 1970s. Like the mockumentary A Mighty Wind, its appeal is based largely on the eccentricities of a particular decade in American history. Instead of ’60s folk stardom, Hooked on a Fruitcake satirizes lounge life in the 1970s. Unlike Christopher Guest’s wry film, this show is fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny, hurling one nauseating pop culture reference after another. Can you dig it?

For 13 years, Grant Richey (as Tony Martini) and Judy Heneghan (as Olive Heatherton) have been the local holiday cheeze plate. Count on irreverent humor and tunes so bad they’re good. No deep thinking required here.

The seventies make for easy laughs. Above all, there is the god-awful attire. It is universally accepted that loungewear from the ’70s is the most atrocious apparel ever; and Martini and Olive’s stage garb is the pinnacle of the dregs of ’70s fashion.

Though the sight gags are easy, these two lounge lizards work for the laughs – and there are loads of ’em. Their sketches include sardonic ramblings on such mysteries as the Fu Manchu, brown earth shoes, Annie Hall, and streakin’. From Hummels to Hooters, the jokes are a welcome antidote to the (alleged) verisimilitude of the season.

You needn’t have lived through the seventies to enjoy Hooked on a Fruitcake. Martini and Olive appeal to a local audience with jokes about MnDot and Lorie Line, and the ubiquitous holiday crock pot and Cheeze Whiz. I was especially delighted to my high school’s mascot (a polar bear) being used for comedic effect.

And then there’s the music. These are “songs that make you ding-a-ling,” as Martini and Olive put it. In addition to a nod to Vince Guaraldi’s music from the 1978 Charlie Brown’s Christmas special, we get some marvelous song parodies. Remember Donna Summers’ “Love to Love you Baby?” It is deftly transformed into irreverent holiday fodder (“Mary, we love to love your baby.”). C’mon. When baby Jesus in a manger is juxtaposed with the sexiest of disco divas, how could it not lead to cathartic, stress-relieving belly laughs?

This show is not for children or the prudish. There are references to “camel toe,” reindeer porn, and smoking Mary Jane; and of course, a few raunchy Minnesota Vikings jokes are thrown in for good measure.

Hennepin Stages (formerly Hey City Theater) is a smallish theater – perfect for this show, since proximity is essential to the gags. Like the jokes, the stage movement is delivered with rapid-fire. Wendy Knox, of the very brave and quirky Frank Theater, is credited with this precise stage direction.

The Swizzle Stick Dancers – three in all – and Martini and Olive’s hip manager, Vince (played by Peter Staloch) accompany the duo. The three middle-aged “dancers” exemplify their motto “overmedicated and ready to rock.” The troupe’s “security” team also adds to the comedy, and serves as a warm-up act prior to show time. Stuart (played by Dan Rooney) is wonderfully convincing as the grinch of the show.

There is no intermission, and drinking is encouraged. They announce that “It should be going into you or coming out of you at all times.”

Bar service is available in the lobby before the show. Let me rephrase that: There is a bar in the lobby, which suggests something rather like drink service. On this particular night, the bar and bartender were coming up a little short. When the patron in front of me ordered a gin and tonic, the bartender said, “Okay, but we don’t have lime – only lemon.” He said hold the fruit. The bartender started to prepare the drink, stopped, and said, “Actually, we don’t have tonic.” Later, my martini was neither shaken, nor stirred, and when I arrived at my seat, I realized it had no olives, or any form of garnishment. In summary, the lobby bar is a nice convenience, but if you’re feeling picky about your libations, the best solution is to head a few doors down to Solera for your pre-show cocktails.

My recommendation? If you like your comedy with a dose of camp, head to Hooked on a Fruitcake at Hennepin Stages before the end of the year. If your New Year’s Eve could use a cheeky send-up, consider chilling with Martini and Olive’s unique brand of holiday merriment. Perhaps the bar will be fully stocked by then. (Or you could smuggle in your own lime wedges.)

“Martini and Olive: Hooked on a Fruitcake”
at Hennepin Stages
824 Hennepin Avenue South, Downtown Minneapolis
612-673-0404, or purchase at the State Theatre box office
Through December 31, 2005
Tickets: $24.50-$29.50. www.MartiniandOlive.com

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