When a musical as loud and boisterous as “Oscar at the Crown” argues that there’s a direct — though not so straight — line from Oscar Wilde to “The Real Housewives of Orange County” to postapocalyptic America, you may find yourself nodding in agreement. There is, after all, such a thing as being pummeled into submission.
The hammering is literal during much of the 90-minute show, because Andrew Barret Cox’s score relies heavily on the four-on-the-floor thump familiar to dance-music fans.
Add Chipmunks-meet-Aqua processed vocals and the treacherous acoustics of the high-ceilinged Bushwick venue 3 Dollar Bill, and it’s easy to see why the party-inducing beat takes such precedence in this immersive production from the Neon Coven collective. It’s nearly impossible to figure out any of the song lyrics — a perverse state of affairs for a show purportedly about one of the world’s most famous wits.
The basic setup, devised by Mark Mauriello, is that a gang of gender-queer outcasts has holed up at the Crown, an off-the-grid nightclub, in order to escape some dystopian bad stuff happening outside. To entertain themselves, they put on pageants about Oscar Wilde, who is portrayed by Oscar, the commune’s leader (Mr. Mauriello, coming across as Frank-N-Furter of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” transplanted to an early-1990s Madonna video).
The reason, as our pansexual pied piper explains to the newcomer Constance (Kerri George), is that Wilde is vital to understanding a world shaped, then destroyed, by reality television. Wilde was “a star who made his life a season arc and a story line and a viral sensation so fascinating, it killed him,” one of Oscar’s acolytes says.
A central element in the Crown mythos is the seer role awarded to Julie Cooper, a character in the scripted drama “The O.C.” In one episode, she apparently mused that America should be fascinated by the lives of Orange County’s rich and fabulous. Her show was one of the inspirations for “The Real Housewives of Orange County” — and thus, according to the musical’s cosmology, kick-started the downfall of America into a reality-TV-fueled hellscape.
The idea of Oscar Wilde and Julie Cooper somehow being linked in an infernal loop of reality, fiction and fetish gear certainly is intriguing, but “Oscar at the Crown” is brought down by interchangeable numbers and a staging, by Shira Milikowsky, that too often mistakes agitation for energy or purpose.
Everybody is busy gabbing, singing, dancing or moving stage platforms this way and that so cast members are always inches from the crowd. It can be very entertaining in a goofy, mindless manner, and just as often very confusing.
Toward the end, Constance — who shares a name with Wilde’s wife — abruptly stops the fun dead by pointing out that the celebrated writer was no saint. He accumulated debt and treated his spouse and children terribly; and besides, who even remembers that the real Constance had not-insignificant accomplishments of her own?
When someone questions her knowledge, Constance shoots back, “I was a [expletive] English major,” then proceeds to diva-belt a power ballad. At long last, Oscar is stunned into silence
Oscar at the Crown
Through Aug. 25 at 3 Dollar Bill, Brooklyn; oscaratthecrown.com. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Oscar at the Crown
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