THEATER | “The Saved By the Bell Show” brings Bayside High to life at the BLB

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Like all computer teachers in 1988, Ms. Loufek at Nativity of Our Lord Elementary School was compelled to spend most of her time scrubbing obscenities from Oregon Trail tombstones. Nonetheless, she found the time to give us some life lessons: “Sooner or later, every one of you will worship the porcelain god,” and “Watch Degrassi High—it’s very real.” I never did catch an episode of Degrassi High, but I saw plenty of Saved By the Bell.

In A Christmas Carol: The Golden Girls Remix, Theatre Arlo had the fortune of working with a sitcom that had a genuinely sharp script; in bringing Saved By the Bell to the Bryant-Lake Bowl stage, Dana’s Boys have no such luxury. Saved By the Bell was a bad show, and the first half of The Saved By the Bell Show feels authentically like watching bad TV; you occasionally find yourself wanting to reach for the remote. The show perks up in the second half, though, with a reënactment (it’s not Daily Planet style to use that New Yorker second-vowel umlaut, but in this context I couldn’t resist) of the episode in which overachiever Jessie (Michelle Makie) falls victim to the seductive lure of caffeine pills.

the saved by the bell show, presented through june 30 at the bryant-lake bowl. for tickets ($15) and information, see bryantlakebowl.com

The Saved By the Bell Show is not a high-concept production: under the guidance of director Brad Erickson, Dana’s Boys set out to translate two abbreviated episodes of the after-school sitcom straight to the stage, with a modest amount of appropriate winking. With the exception of Patrick O’Brien—a local actor reprising the character of Mr. Dewey, who he played on the actual TV show—the Dana’s Boys cast members only faintly resemble the actors they’re standing in for, which makes their aping of the characters’ mannerisms all the more amusing. Cody Sorensen (playing Zack), Mac Rasmus (Screech), and my friend Catherine Hansen (Kelly) nail their characters’ trademark mannerisms; Mike Rylander positively glories in Slater’s keep-on-truckin’ saunter.

The show is stolen, though, by Rita Tredal—who I last saw as the tireless Pinocchio-chan—as the principal voice of the several commercials that punctuate the production. In that capacity, she gets to deliver a couple of the late 20th century’s signature catchphrases (“I’ve fallen…and I can’t get up!”), but her best moment is a silent, deeply weird 30-second portrayal of the Snuggle Fabric Softener bear, rubbing herself in softened cotton like Dennis Hopper with a curtain of blue velvet.

If approached with the proper attitude, sitcoms on stage at the BLB are pretty infallible, entertaining you with irony as soft and cuddly as a fabric-softened blanket. Unless you’re completely allergic to Saved By the Bell‘s signature blend of California Gold, you could do a lot worse than to roll up to the BLB and get yourself a nice Bayside High.

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