Holding down the weekend of the weekend with the Dark Room Theatre’s “Ghostbusters: Live” and Har Mar Superstar
Among the true creatures of the night, Saturday Night has always been passé, amateur night if you will, when even the most accommodating of dive bars or clubs are suddenly jammed tight with lightweight dilettantes, whose allegiance to the night life is as superficial as it is truncated. But the real weekend has always begun on Thursday, straddling the line between Wednesday’s hump and Saturday’s slump, a connoisseur’s indulgence.
Though San Francisco is happily full of those who understand that Thursday is when the party starts, any number of theatres can still attest that packing the house on that particular evening can be a tricky prospect, a trend I can attest to from the personal experience of having attended many a Thursday show where the actors outnumbered the oddience. Awkward. Which made entering the oversold, packed to the rafters performance of “Ghostbusters: Live”! at the Dark Room Theatre that much more refreshing. This is one Mission Street outpost that has thus far ably resisted the siren song of gentrification and co-option, and remains a place where silly good fun can be had for the price of cheap, with an additional calendar of ten p.m. comedy shows that caters specifically to the committed night owl crowd.
“Ghostbusters: Live” was a perfect example of the Dark Room aesthetic from start to finish, one which other no-budget production companies would do well to take note of. Eschewing a set, which would really just impede the action on the tiny, 12’ x 8’ stage, but expending just enough effort on costuming, lights, and sound to support the storyline and bolster the humor, “Ghostbusters: Live!” opened with the three researchers (played by Adam Curry, Tim Kay, and Thomas Apley) looking for signs of a haunting in the public library, the best lines about great sponge migrations, family psychosis, and menstruation left intact. With clever puppetry standing in for any number of ghostly apparitions, and a strong supporting cast including Adam Vogel as a pitch-perfect Louis Tully, and Alexia Staniotes as the acerbic Janine Melnitz, “Ghostbusters: Live!” managed to capture both the essence of the movie it was sending up and the heady geist of a Thursday night out on the town, framing the possibilities for the rest of the weekend to come.
If Thursday Night is the prelude to the weekend, then Sunday night is its final salute, and the true testing ground of the dedicated denizens of the dark. Which made it perhaps the perfect day of the week for the rarified talent that is Har Mar Superstar to perform. True, the tough sell that is Sunday night kept the crowd at the Bottom of the Hill from swelling to the epic proportions you might expect for a performer of his caliber, but wasn’t that just more elbow room for the rest of us?
Often compared to the lovably schlubby porn star Ron Jeremy, the Bay Area celebrity Sean Tillmann most closely resembles is Josh Kornbluth, although Tillman’s a whole lot more exhibitionistic. His alter-ego’s double-entendre filled lyrics, funky dance moves, catchy hooks, and unabashed libido combine into a stage persona of pure sweaty id, while his true weapon, a silkily soulful croon, tongue-bathes the oddience in its liquid smooth. While a lot of his songs skew towards the humorous, including the trashy-pop “Tall Boy” and his boy-band ode to “the male camel-toe” “Almond Joy,” when Har Mar gets serious he wields an epic howl such as when he turns on the retro-soul for “Lady, You Shot Me” and further unleashes his formidable upper register on “Sunshine.”
And while there was some initial trepidation on the part of the crowd, perhaps fearful of the unpredictable intentions of the lascivious songster, by the end everyone was getting into the spirit of the moment, rubbing Tillman’s proudly bared belly for luck, swapping saliva, getting down. Rounding out the set with a literally stripped-down (to the briefs) acapella version of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” provided the appropriate closure for the weekend’s last hurrah, and set the mood for all the weekends to come, the sunshine and the rain.