Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Rocky Horror Show
Ray of Light Theater
Review by Patrick Thomas

Also see Patrick's reviews of Jesus Christ Superstar and Dear San Francisco

D'Arcy Drollinger and cast
Photo by Alexander Belmont
This may be the most painful review I've ever had to write. Not because I hated The Rocky Horror Show, playing through October 31 at The Oasis in a Ray of Light Theater production, but because I loved it. The pain comes from the fact that the brief run is completely sold out, so only those lucky few already holding tickets (or those who clear the waitlist or perhaps find someone willing to scalp their ducats) will get to plunge into the queer decadence Ray of Light and The Oasis have created.

On Tuesday night I was thrilled by Dear San Francisco at Club Fugazi, in part because it celebrated the romantic, joyous, welcoming flavor of The City. Now I think a double feature is warranted, for combining Dear San Francisco's sweetness (and circus thrills) with the piquant queerness of The Rocky Horror Show would give theatregoers a more rounded view of what makes our city unique in all the world.

The Rocky Horror Show is an immersive theatrical experience. One enters The Oasis into its front bar, where the wedding of Ralph and Betty is taking place (officiated by Michael Phillis as the preacher—more on him later) and where Brad and Janet (Julio Chavez and Melinda Campero) become engaged, singing the iconic "Dammit Janet." (Before that, however, we are treated to a powerhouse version of "Science Fiction/Double Feature" by Emily Dwyer, who—with their absolutely stainless steel belt—kicks the experience off with incredible vigor.

After "Over at the Frankenstein Place" is performed, the audience is guided into the main room, where a burlesque cabaret is in full swing. Because of the room sizes at The Oasis, the audience enters in three groups. Each group gets the opening sequence on their own before moving into the main bar—so everyone gets the full show, but the first group in gets the most time with the performers in the big room, as well as the shortest line at the bar.

Inside the main bar is the sort of spectacle the religious right often point to as an example of the decadence of our Babylon-by-the-Bay: men and women in various fetish attire, dancing and leering and embracing and humping (but mostly dancing) on the thrust stage and several go-go boxes placed around the room. There's a lot of black leather and vinyl, several bare butts, and yards and yards of fishnet on display—and not just from the cast, as many attendees came in appropriate costume for this 90 minutes of delightful debauchery. The audience—save for those with the handful of VIP tickets or in the ADA section—stand the entire time and are able to move about the room to follow the action. (Most of which takes place on the raised stage and thrust.)

There is a quite a bit of very sexy naughtiness going on here (it's a very R-rated show): a microphone dangles dildo-like during "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me"; go-go dancers twerk provocatively, get into spread eagle positions, often touching themselves suggestively. And I can't even begin to describe what D'arcy Drollinger as Frank-N-Furter does with a condom. (But trust me, your conservative mother from Indiana would gasp, cover her eyes, faint—or all three.)

Since we're on the subject of D'arcy Drollinger, let's talk about him. One would imagine there might be just the tiniest bit of pressure/stress in taking on a role that Tim Curry made almost iconic when he played Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But I imagine Drollinger bitch-slapped (with his spangly fingerless gloves) that pressure into nothingness as he makes the "sweet transvestite from Transylvania" all his own. Despite wearing a leather corset, fishnet stockings, and a jumbo white pearl choker (costume designers are Maggie Whitaker, Mr. David, Corey Fusco, Mary Vice, Kip Yanaga, and Paige Turner) as Curry did in the film, his growling bass and sass-on-steroids attitude will make you forget any other Frank-N-Furters you've had the pleasure to know. As both an actor and a character, Drollinger/Furter demands your attention, strutting with a confidence that draws every eye to him.

If you're lucky enough to already have a ticket, I'd suggest you spend some of your visit with Frank—and Riff-Raff (Joe Greene), Magenta (trixxie carr, whose voice soars), and Columbia (an adorably rodent-voiced Carissa Hatchel)—watching Michael Phillis. Not only is he brilliant as the Narrator who guides us through the action, his reactions and takes when he's not in the spotlight are a terrific show all on their own. The man is a freaking star—I have no idea why he's not bubbling up into the next level of theatre.

Here I am, 800 or so words into this, and I still haven't touched upon the amazing wigs (by Laundra Tyme), the video insert segments, the rhinestone-covered taser, or the fabulous campy '70s vibe that pervades the whole thing. All I can say is it breaks my heart that you probably won't get the opportunity to experience the bawdy, freaky, glorious wonder that is Ray of Light's The Rocky Horror Show. There is a possibility they may bring the show back next October, but that's far too long to "give yourself over to absolute pleasure." For that's just what Jason Hoover (concept and direction), Leslie Waggoner (direction and choreography), and Daniel Benitez (choreography) have created for you. But since you can't be it, you will have to dream it.

The Rocky Horror Show runs through October 31, 2021, at The Oasis, 298 11th Street, San Francisco CA. Performances are Wednesdays - Saturdays plus Halloween Sunday, with staggered entries at 6:45, 7:00 and 7:15, at 8:00p.m. Tickets are $30-60, and are sold out for the entire run, but a waitlist is available at