Meet Janet, the roommate from Hell: a whiny, sniveling deadbeat with more lip gloss than common sense. She's late with the rent; kicks her roommate, Debbie, out of the apartment so she can entertain her boyfriend, Cliff; then has the nerve to get engaged to the guy when Deb can't get a date!
But then the moon comes up and something strange happens to Janet. She sprouts claws, and her voice drops an octave. She becomes . . . "Coyote Woman," the title character in playwright Justin Tanner's riff on the Jekyll-and-Hyde motif.
Here, though, Dr. Jekyll is a little closer to the Breck Girl, or perhaps a holdover from "The Donna Reed Show." She's so annoyingly meek and depressingly dependent that she seems to have come through a time warp. But after a transforming encounter with wildlife, she's a new woman. Suddenly, Janet is fun! She stays up all night to par-tee! She tells off her annoying boyfriend! And -- even more amazing -- she pays for the beer.
That's about as far as the plot goes, but this is the latest offering from Cherry Red Productions, so who needs a plot? You can have a couple of brewskis and wait for the blood to spew! Fans of Cherry Red will find enough here to satisfy their craving for bad acting and B-movie plotting. But unlike earlier Cherry Red ventures, which have occasionally risen to sharp social satire, "Coyote Woman" is neither especially offensive nor particularly clever. It's just plain goofy.
The story opens with Janet (Jacky Reres) battling with roommate Debbie and Debbie's twin brother over squatting rights to the couch. The next morning, Janet takes off on a jog with Debbie and runs into a sharp-toothed coyote whose bite transforms her into Lucrezia Blozia (Chris Griffin in drag), a woman of immense appetites. What happens next is fairly predictable, and once you get past the initial gimmick, "Coyote Woman" doesn't offer much to chew on.
Still, Griffin's absolute devotion to the art of high camp makes up for the play's lack of purpose. He portrays Janet's alter ego with a certain coy brutishness, and there's no denying he's awfully cute in those heels and that mini. There are other attractions. So what if the second act meanders a bit? There's a lively exchange by a trio of scary biker babes to lend interest to the proceedings, as well as the ever-welcome presence of the effervescent Tony Greenberg. This time, he appears as an overeager sleaze-ball swinger who gets exactly what he's asking for.
There are worse ways to spend an evening, and the beer is cold.
Coyote Woman, by Justin Tanner. Directed by Jennifer Ambrosino. With Joe Pindelski, Monique LaForce, Richard Price, Stephanie Jane Burden, Melissa-Leigh Douglass and Dana Edwards. At the Warehouse Next Door, 1017 Seventh St. NW. Call 202-298-9077.