By Larry Taylor/Garden Grove Journal
Legions of fans who love the vicarious thrills of horror movies, along with lovers of Americana in general, can look forward to South Coast Repertory’s world premiere of “Doctor Cerberus,” making its debut this week.
Set in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in the mid-1980s, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s play is also a funny coming-of-age story.
The plot centers around Franklin Robertson, a geeky, overweight teenager, played by Brett Ryback.
His great joy derives from horror movies. He watches them every Saturday at midnight on a black-and-white TV as he sits alone his basement. These films are introduced by the puzzling character Doctor Cerberus.
Franklin longs to become this TV host’s assistant; as well, he strives to become a writer. First, though, he must get through high school. From his perspective, that means dealing with overprotective parents, a bullying older brother and lame teachers.
This new play is directed by Bart DeLorenzo who says Franklin’s story reminds him of Dickens’ David Copperfield: In both, the boys fantasized about becoming heroes in their own stories.
“But he doesn’t see the world in a normal way,” DeLorenzo says. “He sees it as a horror movie. And who is the hero of a horror movie? Is it the one who runs away, or is it the monster?”
Playwright Aguirre-Sacasa knows about heroes, villains and monsters, having written for Marvel Comics series, such as Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. He is an award-winning playwright and also writes for the HBO series “Big Love.” Currently, he is working with songwriter Duncan Sheik on a musical adaptation of “American Psycho.”.
Steven Culp portrays Franklin’s dad. He is a former series regular on “Desperate Housewives.” Appearing as Franklin’s mother is frequent Broadway star Candy Buckley, and Jarrett Sleeper (“The Secret Life of an American Teenager”) plays his brother, Rodney, with Jamison Jones (“24”) playing Doctor Cerberus and several other characters.
“Doctor Cerberus” is scheduled through May 2 on SCR’s Julianne Argyros Stage in Costa Mesa.