‘Spank! A Fifty Shades Parody’ doles out theatrical punishment
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org December 1, 2012 12:02AM
Drew Moerlein as Hugh Hanson, Michelle Vezilj as Tasha Woode and Amanda Barker as EB Janet in "SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody."
A Fifty Shades Parody’
When: Through Dec. 16
Where: Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted
Info: (312) 988-9000;
Updated: January 4, 2013 6:08AM
The greatest act of submission, pain and bondage involved in “Spank: The Fifty Shades Parody” — now receiving the most artless, threadbare production imaginable on the Royal George Theatre’s mainstage — is the actual act of sitting through it. Professional responsibility, rather than ropes, handcuffs or other restraints, kept me in my seat for an interminable two hours. It was an excruciating ordeal.
This Mills Entertainment and Just for Laughs co-production is a wholly “unauthorized” spoof inspired by British author E L James’ bestselling novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey” — the first volume of what became a trilogy, and was quickly dubbed “Mommy Porn” because of its enthusiastic following among suburban housewives.
As laughable as the source material might be, this show is neither funny, erotic, subversive nor imaginative. A crack trio of Second City improvisers might have taken a good whack at James’ story in a 10-minute sketch. But here it is stretched to the tedious breaking point by director and head writer Jim Millan and his team of six additional writers — J.S. Blair, I.M MacIntyre, S.A. Moran, C.J. Munch, A.M Scheffler and I.P. Whalen, whose initial-heavy names suggest a quest for anonymity.
The story? E.B. Janet (the energetic Amanda Barker) is a sexually unsatisfied, self-dramatizing housewife, mother, “account manager” and Web-published writer who has a weekend to herself. So she decides to delve into her fantasies and knock out a bestseller, dreaming up a blank slate of a pretty but self-deprecating 22-year-old virgin, Tasha (Michelle Vezilj) who begins an affair with Hugh (Drew Moerlein, who has a sort of Broadway chorus boy sort of sexuality).
A young billionaire businessman with no interest in romance but a whole lot of extreme sexual tastes, Hugh proceeds to initiate the near moronically malleable Tasha into various forms of sodomy and submission. We learn the finer points of all this because, from time to time — and with wide-eyed guilelessness — Tasha discusses aspects of these activities with members of the audience. Fear not; the most explicit scene in the show is probably the one in which simulated oral sex is accomplished with an electric toothbrush.
Vezilj is an attractive redhead who deftly wills herself dumber than dumb. Her best moment in this on-the-cheap show (with canned music and no set) is when she sings a twist on “I Know Things Now,” Little Red Riding Hood’s song from the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into the Woods.”
Of course borrowing the work of a genius for use in such an unworthy show might just be grounds for a serious spanking.