The recent announcement that The Doyle and Debbie Show will be held over at Bongo After Hours Theatre through July 1 is good news for those who haven’t yet caught this hilarious piece of low-brow inspiration turned into high entertainment. Creator Bruce Arntson’s original script and songs give us a washed-up, sometimes dangerously corny country duo (Arntson and Jenny Littleton) who not only drip unwitting pathos but also manage to capture the recording spirit of the last 40 years in Music City.
The song titles pretty much say it all: “When You’re Screwin’ Other Women (Think of Me),” “Stock Car Love” (“You can’t control it!”),“Barefoot and Pregnant,” “The Snowbanks of Life,” “Be Still My Heart” (a George Jones/Tammy Wynette recitative send-up) and “I Ain’t No Homo,” in which a solo Arntson howls eerily like The Possum himself.
There’s also “Harlequin Romance,” a jaunty-ass duet (which, if it had more straightforward country lyrics, might be a huge hit in the real world); “The ABCs of Love,” a clever Patsy Cline-inflected piece of brooding melancholy with mostly acronyms for lyrics; a lively medley of “hits,” including a Lee Greenwood-flavored patriotic rouser, “God Loves America Best”; and “For the Children,” which pokes devilish fun at socially conscious power ballads.
Even when things get absurdly dark in “Daddy’s Hair”—a confessional tale about childhood in which Arntson goes nearly psychotic with recalled trauma—it’s still damn funny. Arntson appears here with train-wreck curiosity, wondering just how deeply he’ll dare to venture into his psychological black hole. Same goes for the brief “intermission,” wherein the audience watches Doyle and Debbie offstage—the former silently, vacantly sipping whiskey, the latter hollering at her kids in the car via two-way radio.
Littleton is talented as usual, using her coyly flexible voice to solid comic effect even when she’s singing things straight-ahead. Arntson is often flat-out brilliant, inhabiting his frighteningly lifelike character with a passion and intensity worthy of the country entertainers he lampoons. His tongue-twisting delivery of the show’s closing number is masterful.
The result is a delightfully goofy, toe-tapping success, with big laughs and a cagey awareness of country music culture. Reservations are available by calling 385-1188.