The Desert Star Playhouse may have spent the summer being renovated but don’t worry: None of the jokes have been updated at all.
The theater’s latest offering, “Hexed Files: The Spoof Is out There,” is the same blend of endearing silliness, broad satire and groan-inducing puns that fans have come to expect from the family-friendly Desert Star.
The show is specifically a parody of “The X-Files,” and while prior knowledge of the TV series enriches the comedy experience, it’s not vital. The parody stays fairly focused, too, with only a few passing riffs on other pop-culture icons. (“Saturday’s Warrior” gets a good ribbing.)
FBI Agent Munster (Steven Fehr) is investigating a UFO crash, accompanied by his skeptical partner, Agent Skunky (Julie Ann Christensen), while the evil Lollipop Man (Paul Thomas Murphy, doing Charlton Heston) tries to stop them. Anonymous informant Strep Throat (Scott Holman, who also directed) gives Munster tips whenever he can, and Air Force pilot Major Cleveland (Gayle Hayes Castleton), who saw the spacecraft, helps, too.
Turns out the UFO was for real, and cartoonish aliens named Zazoo (Kathleen Richardson) and Woof (Nicholas D. Bruun), led by their blustery leader, Zazoo’s father Commander Zork (Ben E. Millet, who scripted), are marooned on earth.
As usual, Holman and Murphy stand out — particularly Holman, who has emerged as the theater’s best bit-part actor, milking every line he gets for all it’s worth, and ad-libbing plenty. Murphy, in a larger role, gives the Lollipop Man a sort of pompous buffoonery, saying something menacing and then falling over backward in his chair, for example.
‘It’s a strong cast all the way through, though: One of Desert Star’s best assets has always been having small ensembles with no weak links. Some jokes fall flat (punctuating them with trills on the piano does not help, by the way); others are weak but worth smiling at; and some hit you right in the face. It starts out slow, but once it gets going, “Hexed Files” is riotously funny, full of gently anarchic humor and tense scenes that end with the cast erupting into jaunty song-and-dance numbers.
For the first time ever, we sat in the front row for this show. It was quite a treat, as the front-row people always get integrated somehow into the proceedings, or at least made fun of. Gayle Hayes Castleton came out and sang a sultry number and sat on my lap for part of it; later, Scott Holman did the same.