Whoosh! Issue 73 - October/November 2002

XENA LIVE! XENA LIVES! THE MUSICAL

Page 2


Ares

[22] Once the commercials were done, we went back to the scene between Xena and Ares. I was at the Creation Pasadena convention in February 2002, when it was announced that Kevin Smith had died, and I found I was very much affected by his death and the events of the convention. It was still with me when I attended my first preview performance. Since I had always liked Kevin Smith's portrayal of Ares, I experienced some trepidation about seeing another actor playing the character.

[23] While there was a twinge of sadness at first, it went away when Gregory Thomas Isaac launched into the role. Part of the reason was that he did not look like Smith. Ares' look was an odd combination of the character's very short hair from the sixth season and the third and fourth season sideburns. That combination in itself may have contributed to not reminding the fans in the audience of Kevin Smith. Another part of it was that he was surrounded by a completely different set of actors. Also, this Ares was the comic relief in the play. The character was written and played extremely broadly, more as a caricature than as a character. Eventually we discover that Ares is the means to make observations about sex, sexuality, and love.

[24] One of the strengths of this play, and the source of some of my fondest memories, was that it permitted interaction with the audience. This also kept the actors on their toes. In one of these first scenes Xena has with Ares, Xena refers to not having to dig herself out of her own grave. Ares asks Xena if she is saying that she is better than Buffy. Xena replies that, "Buffy can kiss my -ss". One gentleman, who may have been a big Buffy fan, reacted loudly enough to these lines such that Xena (Laidlaw) looked out in the audience and asked if he was a fan. During that same show, another audience member made some sort of comment to Elizabeth Laidlaw and she responded, while waving her sword, that she knew where this person was sitting and she would remember her. It was all in fun and helped keep the show light and entertaining.

[25] Musicals are not just about singing to describe character or action. Dancing can also achieve the same purpose. Xena Lives! - The Musical used several forms of dance. We saw it first in Gabrielle's fantasy ballet, when we learned how she regretted Xena's death. In this scene, however, Xena and Ares dance a tango to illustrate their love-hate relationship. The first part is a battle, with both trying to choke and slap each other, pounding each other to the beat. But Ares cheats, winning by surprise when he kisses her. Still having a soft spot for the bad boy, Xena is slow in resisting, but eventually does push herself away. It is here that Ares tells Xena that Gabrielle is off looking up the latest religious fad.

[26] The first of several puns, this one musical, occurs when we hear a brief musical phrase from the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song prior to Ares telling Xena, "Looks like you're going to make it after all." Ares takes his leave and an earthquake suddenly rocks Xena. We get to see more of Di Bauden's work again: tornadoes and terrified deer are some of the images shown on the screen at stage rear. Unknown to Xena, Alti has arrived.

[27] Part of the fun of this show is the risqué double entendres and a big one was used right at this point. Xena anxiously says, "Gabrielle, I'm coming!" and Alti, freezing the action, tells Xena, "I bet you've said that before." It never failed to get a laugh from the audience. The chicken suddenly and inexplicably appears on stage. Xena eyes the animal, then goes off, chasing the chicken for answers.


Anonymous and Aphrodite

[28] We have not seen Gabrielle and Synonomous for a while, so they arrive, scampering onto the stage. Gabrielle complains that she thinks they may be running in circles, "Because I'm sure I've passed her before," pointing out a person in the audience, then winking and nodding. Reaction from each individual was varied, but most often, it was embarrassed pleasure. Sometimes there was no response at all. But the behavior I found most amusing came from a couple. Gabrielle pointed a woman out and then mouthed something about her clothes. The woman's partner was sitting next to her and possessively put her arm around her. Gabrielle mouthed, "Never mind," and turned away for her next line. It was very funny and got a good reaction from the audience.

[29] Turning back to the plot, Gabrielle tries to find out Synonomous' real name and he says it is 'Anonymous'. Gabrielle knows he still is not telling the truth, but lets it slide. She points out that he does not sport a vocabulary for the son of a grammarian, and he admits his father had a much different employment ("honeydipper"). At this point Gabrielle starts to push him around, realizing he does not have any self-defense capabilities. She pushes him again and again and eventually off the stage.

[30] Xena is still chasing the chicken at the opening of the next scene and Ares is with Aphrodite. He watches what is going on with disgust then asks his sister why Xena will not date him. Lisa Velten, who played a pretty believable and funny pig, also plays Aphrodite. Velten has a remarkable resemblance to Alex Tydings, but physical looks are as far as it goes. Her Aphrodite is a different creation, showing a fine sense of physical comedy.

[31] Like Ares, Aphrodite is played broadly, sometimes emphasizing her self-involvement ("I'm so pretty") and her apparent cluelessness ("What am I, the Love Doctor? Oh, duh!"). Aphrodite is guileless and generous with her love, or perhaps her various forms of love items, as we will later see.

[32] As the scene begins, she is fussing with her beaver, Pussywillow. As mentioned above, double entendres/puns are the rule and are beginning to come fast and furiously. Aphrodite thinks Ares should stop obsessing over Xena, singing, most aptly to the Love Boat theme, that she can help him with her Love Dust. Ares is very reluctant to try this option and earnestly avoids her until she pops a muff full of the dust to his face and proclaims that he will become enamored of the first woman he sees.


Chasing Gabrielle

[33] Synonomous and Gabrielle return, with Synonomous tumbling onto the stage and taking Gabrielle's punches. He has gotten much better, to the point that he can get behind her defenses and can sock Gabrielle in the jaw. She gracefully collapses on the floor and smilingly watches him hop with excitement around in front of her. He is pumped. She tells him he got that one and permits Nonny to pull her up off the floor. Gabrielle has both her staff and her sais. Many people were sorry to see Gabrielle discard her staff at the end of THE WAY and rarely pick it up again. Since the staff is the first weapon she learned, she uses it to teach him.

[34] Synonomous is sarcastically amazed at the weapon, "Wow, a stick!" He twirls it around in his hands, getting a feel for it. Saying she was lucky to get a sidekick, she turns and runs into Ares, who apparently has not seen any women yet. He instantly decides he loves her and begins to sing the first of several Rolling Stones songs, beginning with "Start Me Up." He and Gabrielle engage in a bit of musical arguing, going on with "Beast Of Burden," then segueing into the Fleetwood Mac song, "Go Your Own Way."

[35] As Ares comes on to her, Synonomous begins to get very protective, singing in Ares' face, taunting him to "Go your own way". We finally begin to see how Synonomous feels about her when Ares sings the first musical line of the Stones song "Satisfaction," "I can't get no satisfaction." Synonomous responds, "I can't get no Gabby action." Gabrielle gets between them both and holds both of them at bay while doing some cool moves to the music. The boys are still singing and she really gets into it until she simultaneously bashes them on the nose, surprising them both.

[36] The scene ends as Gabrielle runs away, with Ares and Nonny hard on her heels. Ares is chasing her, because he has the hots for her, and Synonomous, because part of his new job of sidekick is to help Gabrielle.


Alti and the Animals

[37] Meanwhile, Alti is busy auditioning individuals to "be worn", that is, to be a host to her evil spirit. The group, consisting of Pig, Lamb, a Longhorned Beetle (from Episode 1), and Joxer, are instructed to fight each other to see who is the strongest. Joxer is taken out first, of course, but it is Pig who bops Lamb over the head after he appears to have won. That must have been the talent competition, because Alti has the candidates line up and give little speeches about themselves. "I'm Pig, I hail from Cairo, I like to wallow. I want save the world from hunger, so…eat me." Alti thinks Lamb is the most menacing, so she pulls out a little tiara and puts it on Lamb's head, who looks a bit bewildered. The competition was a very funny parody of beauty contests.

[38] Alti takes over Lamb's body, signified by more stroboscopic lighting and video images of storms and natural havoc. What happens next was a very clever solution to mimicking television voice dubbing. Technically, they could have recorded the lines for the actor to mouth, but where is the fun in that? Instead, the actor whose body was supposed to have been taken over by Alti would either speak or mouth the lines at the same time Elizabeth Rich spoke them. It took excellent timing because the actor under Alti's control usually had his or her back to Alti. The actors developed a certain rhythm or cadence that minimized getting out of sync. What better place to use this sort of device than in a musical, where rhythm and a regular tempo are paramount.

[39] About this time, Gabrielle and Synonomous are sparring. She puts a fine move on him, literally leaving him all wound up, with his arm twisted behind his back. It is not done in malice, but is a bit of training. We find that he does the cooking, which has pleased Gabrielle. In turn, she has taught him how to catch fish with his bare hands.

[40] This brings up Xena and her talents. Synonomous hesitantly asks Gabrielle if she misses Xena and she says, "I'll always miss her." Probably realizing this brings up painful memories, he turns the conversation to Ares. Of course, once a person's name comes up, that person seems to arrive in body. In walks a lovesick Ares singing "(They Long to Be) Close to You." Gabrielle tells Ares to stop and he leaves, very frustrated.

[41] Patrick Sarb (Synonomous) is very funny when Gabrielle suggests they sleep next to each other. He displays an eager, puppy-like joy. It is obvious he has a major crush for Gabrielle going. Hoping for romantic activity, he checks out his breath, and then tries to speak in what he considers is a suave, sophisticated tone. In contrast to how he acted before, this is so silly that I always laughed hard. Gabrielle tries to discover his true name. He says it is Ambiguous, and again, Gabrielle thinks he is still avoiding the question. As this interaction winds down, we find Ares really has not gone away, popping his head in and announcing he is not ambiguous.

[42] This is another example of puns strewn throughout the play. A play on words is the common person's form of humor. Most people can make a pun, because they are so easy. Even the groaners inspire people to smile because they can be easily understood. This lends well to campy humor, and this play has it in abundance. As we learn in the end, the play has something serious to say, but the message is told in such an entertaining way that you know it without feeling that it is a Serious Subject Not To Be Taken Lightly.

[43] The action picks up again as Xena comes onto the stage. She wonders where Gabrielle is as Gabrielle looks up at the stars, remembering nights of stargazing with Xena. This leads into the production's other original song, "Move On." It is a lovely duet, sung by Xena and Gabrielle, who remain separated from each other. The song describes their thoughts about their lives together and how painful it has been in their separation. During the song, the audience sees images of their life together, reminiscent of A DAY IN THE LIFE. There are scenes of Xena and Gabrielle lying on the ground, looking up at the stars; Xena taking a swing at a bad guy; Gabrielle pulling herself up by Xena's breastplate; Xena sharpening her sword with Gabrielle soulfully looking on and of course, the signature hot tub scene. In the end, Gabrielle decides she has to 'move on' with her new sidekick, while Xena decides she will not.

[44] The video scenes always garnered some of the biggest laughs, and for the TV show's fans, were pertinent to the show and helped explain the song. There is a story behind the taping of those scenes. Di Bauden, Amy Matheny, and Elizabeth Laidlaw filmed them in Chicago in November 2001. The temperature outside was 25 degrees above zero, but luckily, there was no snow at the time. To keep warm between takes, Laidlaw and Matheny would huddle under borrowed football cloaks. It took them 4 hours and Bauden said she wondered if her neighbors thought they were filming pornographic movies! Just as the fans had come to respect that Lucy Lawless and Renee` O'Connor were real troopers for acting in some of New Zealand's nastiest weather, the same can be said for Amy Matheny and Elizabeth Laidlaw. Think of lying on the ground, in barely above freezing temperatures, in a skimpy costume, and not showing the effects while acting. Kudos to them for their heart.


Girl Talk

[45] Gaybriel, having been sloughed off by Xena, goes to visit Aphrodite, and they have a 'b-tchfest'. Aphrodite is eating grapes, which seem to be fermented, because already she is three sheets to the wind. They have an amusing exchange about heaven. Gaybriel complains that heaven is overrated. "They sermonize, they harmonize, they don't accessorize, and they throw the worst parties!" Aphrodite inquires why, if he is Xena's Guardian Angel, is he not doing his job. As we have seen, Xena does not want his help. He thought she would be fun, but she is just tragic. "But," Aphrodite responds drunkenly, always the beauty expert, "she's got monster hair."

[46] About this time, Ares is chasing Gabrielle across the stage. Aphrodite and Gaybriel both note their passage. Then they come back, with Synonomous complaining under his breath, "I love my job, I love my job, I love my job". Gaybriel had seen Gabrielle's "yummy" sidekick and asks Aphrodite to put a spell on him. While they both think this would be amusing, they decide it would be much better if they could dust Ares. But Aphrodite points out that it would not work unless the dustee has an unconscious wish for it to work. Gaybriel, feeling he needs to do his job despite Xena's recalcitrance, takes off.

[47] The rest of the scene is hilarious, as Aphrodite finds she wants her lavender muff. Lisa Velten is a wonderful physical comedienne, drunkenly wandering around the stage in high-heeled slippers and stepping on what appears to be a pink nylon wrap, which is lying on a stepped stage. I was always concerned she would accidentally slip and fall, but in all the times I saw the show, she never made a misstep. Later, we will see just how good she is at pratfalls. Aphrodite falls to the floor, on the steps, and says that she has to remember to tell Xena that Gabrielle does not know Xena is alive, and as drunks seem to do frequently, asserts she will not forget. Instead she promptly does, but does recall that she is looking for that lavender muff. In the process, she manages to roll around and fall off the stage. It was a wonderfully funny exit.

[48] Xena is having a dream, where Gabrielle enters and tenderly strokes Xena's brow. So starts the dream ballet, which is announced by Lamb, doing high-kicks with a sign marked, oddly enough, "Dream Ballet." However, things are never easy with Xena. They start out with a tango. Xena is still the competitor, because they separate and she starts doing the Charleston, with Gabrielle immediately following Xena's lead. They quickly follow with a jitterbug move, emphasizing their teamwork. The competitive side comes back as both do a mock tap dance. Xena gets that impatient, exasperated look on her face as if to say, "What? Another way to beat me?" But they do finally settle down and work together better, moving simultaneously as they dance through a ballet, then switch to a sexy, hip-swinging step as they sidle toward the audience. Coming full circle, they complete the ballet with a tango and a foot stomp, on the toe, simultaneously. Gabrielle leaves Xena again with more tender touches and strokes.


Boy Talk

[49] Gaybriel has been hovering over Xena and, apparently becoming impatient with waiting, begins blowing in her ear. This is a mistake, because Xena, after brushing at her ear, backhands him on the nose. By this time, Gaybriel ought to know that one should practice care when waking the Warrior Princess. At this point in the play, we get some of the most comic situations, and for some members of the audience, the most shocking. Ares walks in and, at first, seems surprised to find Xena is alive, and then adds, "Wait, I knew that." Telling Xena that he fell asleep and then woke up covered in "this sh-t," he does not see Gaybriel who has been hovering in the background. When he does, he is immediately love struck. Gaybriel's reaction is also immediate and very physical. It is so physical that he tries to hide his reaction. John LaGuardia (Gaybriel) played it way over the top, by bending over to hide his crotch, or spinning to hide his front. It seemed with each performance it got longer and longer. The audience always laughed hard at this part of the scene.

[50] Xena, standing to the side, has been forgotten by the two. Ares follows Gaybriel, who is trying to gain some sort of control, but fails. Eventually Xena pulls them apart, telling Ares (again, quite punnishly) to "keep his package in -- or out -- of the mail". Realizing they do not even know she is there, she throws up her hands and leaves. The boys come together in a hot kiss and Gaybriel attaches himself to Ares' nipple. Ares' comes out of his lustful haze for a moment and says, "Wait a minute. Did I just kiss a boy?" John LaGuardia, who ramped up this scene by leaping on Ares, would start thrusting his hips while licking Ares' nipple. For the rest of the scene, one or the other comes to his senses only to slip back into an erotic haze, usually at the opposite time as the other. Gaybriel is well aware he has to fulfill his commitment to Xena, but he gives into another hot session of open-mouthed kisses. Although still under the influence of the "queer dust", Ares tries to control himself again. Finally, Gaybriel tells Ares he has to go help Xena and Ares decides he will go along. Gaybriel: "I know a shortcut." Ares: "No. Let's take the long way!"

[51] All the players begin to come together. Xena, still trying to locate Gabrielle, runs across a very hung-over Aphrodite who is wearing a pair of oversized sunglasses. She whispers to Xena to "keep it down." Xena, for her part, is happy to see Aphrodite, giving her a hug. But they are distracted by another earthquake. Out pops Ares wearing Gaybriel's vest and shouting, "Sweet Jesus!" A lusty Gaybriel pulls him back.


Stalking Xena

[52] Unbeknownst to Xena, during the quake, Aphrodite accidentally dusted herself with her lavender muff. Suddenly she fixes her eye on Xena, like a lioness on her prey. Xena knows she is in trouble and backs away from a very assertive goddess. Aphrodite begins to, well, grope Xena. Since Xena stands with her back to the audience, it helps to be sitting in one of the side seats to know that Aphrodite is grabbing for certain erogenous zones. Xena tells Aphrodite, "No, don't touch that, or that - Aphrodite!" Aphrodite chases Xena around the stage until she has her backed up against a wall.

[53] Part of the stage is a pillar built into a ramp and Aphrodite backs Xena up to the pillar but on the ramp. Aphrodite pops Xena with her lavender muff and Xena, momentarily confused, finds herself nose to nose with the goddess. Xena has been nervously trying to get Aphrodite back on track by explaining Gabrielle might be in danger. Telling Xena that she is in more danger than Gabrielle, she plants a big kiss on Xena's lips. Xena seems to responds, then straightens up and sort of flails her arms, inadvertently pushing the goddess away.

[54] With one of the most physical of Lisa Velten's pratfalls, Aphrodite does a somersault on the floor, rolling to where her rear-end is up in the air and her head near the floor, legs spread and her filmy wrap over her head. This goddess is very limber. She looks up, baffled as to how she got there. It was one of the funniest moments in the show. Standing, Aphrodite looks at her muff and declares in awe, "Did I just kiss the Warrior Princess? This sh-t is good!" Xena is rubbing her face and appears to be wondering what happened just a moment ago.

[55] Aphrodite has a complete mood change and becomes almost weepy. With a quivering voice, she asks Xena why she does not like her, referring to Xena's obvious rejection. "Aren't I totally hot?" Xena agrees, but tells her that she considers the goddess her friend and she does not want to ruin their friendship, adding, she does not "have that many friends. Apparently they are all dead."

[56] In an aside to the audience, Aphrodite says, "How many times have you heard that one!" This is another instance where the actors were able to include the audience in the show, which is one of the charms of this production and works well in a comedy. Xena tells Aphrodite that just because she said they are friends "doesn't mean it isn't true." This little exchange underscores the fact that the queer dust works only if the affected person wanted it, and with Aphrodite as the object of affection, Xena did not want it. Once this little misunderstanding is over, Xena and Aphrodite exit to find Gabrielle.


Alti Plots

[57] Meanwhile, Alti is preparing for her confrontation with Xena. Having overtaken Lamb's body, she is with the religious oddities at their spot near the river. Androgeny is standing to one side, getting the animals to "Praise me. Praise me. Praise myself, praise ME!" As mentioned above, there are many points in the show when the actors could interact with the audience. Both Scott Duff (Androgeny) and Alex Billings (the later Androgeny) would try to get the audience to "praise him/her", although Scott would play more to the members sitting in the side seats and Alex would go for the main seating. There must have been something about the character, because I do not recall any of us ever refusing. On the other hand, Billings was very determined that we respond.

[58] Androgeny notices a difference in Lamb and asks Chicken what is up with him. After listing one or two possible reasons, Chicken trots out "Clone?" for the audience's amusement. Alti, who is standing by watching the action, has found that she likes Androgeny's attitude much better and dumps Lamb's body for Androgeny's. Alti, it seems, really likes this body much more. Billings (Androgeny) approached it rather bawdily. Her Androgeny liked it much, much more as well.

[59] Now Alti and Androgeny speak in tandem, "Praise me, praise me, praise myself, praise ALTI". Androgeny, however, tries to retain his/her own personality, which makes sense. Androgeny preaches self-respect and comfort with oneself. Using another clever technique, those whose can exhibit their own personality appear to pull something away from their heads, as if the character was attempting to pull its head away from a curtain or a through bag's opening. At that point, the owner of that body can speak.

[60] Alti begins making somewhat gratuitous remarks, about wanting to get to Xena by wearing others' bodies. Androgeny pops his/her head out of the top of the invisible bag and is eventually able to struggle out of that shape -- Alti is a shapeshifter, you see. In an amusing exchange, Androgeny begins trying to persuade Alti that her penchant for wearing other people's bodies is an indication that she needs to love herself. Alti replies that she has no problem with that, but her problem is that she just cannot feel for anybody else. Androgeny thinks this masks some "deep, deep, deep, deep" issues. Alex Billings, as you might expect, took this little repetition and expanded it. Each performance it got longer and longer. By the closing performance, it was perhaps twenty or thirty 'deeps'. I started to count them, but stopped after I began to lose count. It was fun to watch Elizabeth Rich's face to see if she would break character, but I do not believe she ever did.

[61] Alti has had enough of this and takes over Androgeny's body again. Gabrielle and Synonomous/Anonymous arrive at the river shore. Synonomous sees something is not right with Androgeny, when he asks her how she has been. Androgeny, currently possessed by Alti, replies very shortly, "Fine, you?" Synonomous realizes this is not the person he knew before and tells Gabrielle that they are in trouble because it is not who they see. Gabrielle tells him it is Androgeny. Androgeny/Alti, meanwhile, has gone to the perch on which s(he) has been standing during the show and draws their attention back to him/her. "Focus!" Synonomous strides up to him and says, "You're not Daddy-Mom!"

[62] Alti, realizing the jig is up, wipes the floor with Synonomous, and takes control of his body, impelling him into combat with Gabrielle. Gabrielle fights back, but as in the past, she is no match for Alti and very soon, both are defeated. Gabrielle is forced up onto the spot Androgeny has used and appears tied to a ladder there. Alti/Androgeny manages to slash Synonomous, wounding him. Androgeny mentions something about 'testicles' and Synonomous is convinced he is dying. Patrick Sarb (Synonomous) says melodramatically, "It's just a scratch, Gabby." Gabrielle looks at him and says, "Thanks the gods it's only a scratch", much relieved that he, indeed, is not severely injured. Synonomous looks down his torso and cries with surprise, "I'm not?" With Gabrielle a prisoner, Alti decides she is ready for Xena and orders the animals off to lure Xena to Gabrielle and Alti.


Is He?

[63] We next see Xena and Aphrodite walking on stage in animated conversation. At the same time, Ares and Gaybriel enter from stage left, also chatting away. Each pair sees the other. Xena and Aphrodite smirk and Ares looks embarrassed. Gaybriel seems earnestly trying to convince Ares of something. Xena is still concerned about her rejection of Aphrodite earlier. Aphrodite assures her it is all right but then zeroes in on Xena and says very sexily, "But next time, Xena, you won't stand a chance." Then she relents and cries, "Just kidding! Call me if you need me", and leaves the stage. Gaybriel says he's "in love with a wonderful man!" But Ares is having none of it. He is not, "You know!" A rejected Gaybriel melodramatically flops on the stage, after singing the opening bars of "On my own, pretending he's beside me" from Les Miserables. Xena starts to tease Ares, threatening to 'out' him as "the king of the fairies". Ares is aghast. He says, in one of the least effective and articulate retorts, to Xena: "I'm not", and to the audience: "and I'm not!"

[64] Sometimes addressing the audience can cause unexpected results. During the closing performance, Ares speaks his line to the audience and one member shot back a comment. I did not hear what she said but Gregory Isaac (Ares) walked over in a mock-threatening manner and spoke to her. If I remember correctly, it was something about calling her out to take care of her. Of course, he had no intention of going through with it, but it worked nicely and the audience had a good chuckle.

[65] Xena taunts Ares, threatening and teasing him to fight her. "I don't fight girls," she says, laughing. "Of course I fight girls! Remember my dark side?" Xena recalls she is off to help Gabrielle with that "snake-oil shaman", and Ares points out she will have help, at which another visual pun occurs when Lamb, Chicken and Pig surreptitiously enter stage rear and form the Charlie's Angels pose, concurrent with the music. Laughter from the audience would result, but there was one instance when Pig seemed to miss her cue. Normally she would enter from stage left, but this one night she was on the wrong side and crawled on-stage from stage right. I am not sure whether she slipped or she was crawling clandestinely to try to avoid Chicken and Lamb's entrances. At any rate, Elizabeth Laidlaw lost it and began to laugh. Gregory Isaac (Ares) told her to breathe and finally Laidlaw could only utter, "But it was so lame!" Flubs like this helped make this production very entertaining.


Xena vs. the Barnyard

[66] All three animals have weapons. Lamb has a staff, Pig a club, and Chicken a pair of claw-like objects, which resemble bird's feet. Xena dismisses the barnyard animals, threatening them with "barbecue". She does not trust them, "especially poultry", perhaps because Chicken had led her on a wild goose chase (sorry, I could not resist the pun). Chicken sneers, "Pluck you". So Xena sets about fighting all three animals, and wins the battle quite handily. Ares and Gaybriel try to help her, but it really is all Xena. For the first time Xena shouts her battle cry and puts her considerable energy into defeating all three animals.

[67] In earlier scenes, we could see the tip of Xena's dark side, but it really comes out here. She truly gets into the fighting. So much so, that she tells everyone she does not want to stop. Gaybriel, however, says with much irony, that he is impressed she beat a chicken. Xena continues to insult and threaten the animals, telling them she will turn them into pork rinds and chicken wings. This sends Chicken off to a corner of the stage, squawking, and Lamb follows her, talking to her soothingly and attempting to calm her down. Finally, he turns to Xena and huffs indignantly, "Are you proud of yourself?" Xena merely smirks at him and continues to threaten to turn them into yummy food. She finally threatens to take them to the religious faker and as they exit the stage, Chicken passes her. Xena nonchalantly says to her, "Chicken fingers". With that, Chicken runs yawping from the stage.

[68] The description of the scene is not nearly as funny as seen on the stage. The show is, after all, a comedy at heart. Xena, being Xena, needs to intimidate someone, even if it is a chicken. I doubt she was feeling very kindly toward Chicken because she had been led on a merry chase and then was threatened with bodily harm by the animals. Besides, she had not had a good fight since she was brought back to life. One of her lines was that she had not had her fill of fights yet. The end of the scene yields some indication of how flexible the play was and how much the cast could change their lines to suit themselves. During the dinner after BardCon, I told Elizabeth Laidlaw that her "chicken fingers" was one of my favorite lines. She hinted that it might be time to change that line, and later into the run she did. She used "chicken pot pie" for a while and "chicken fricassee." I recall my friend and I doing a high-five the first time we heard the change from "chicken fingers" to "chicken pot pie." Some of us are very easily amused.

[69] With Xena and company on their way to meet up with Androgeny and Alti, we come back to Synonomous and Gabrielle. Never underestimate the power of the love of a parent. The concerned Androgeny runs to check on Synonomous, after managing to cast off Alti, when s(he) sees he is hurt. Alti goes off "for a quick smoke". She really does not care at this point because she has Gabrielle and she knows Xena will come for her. She can always put Androgeny back on, if she chooses. Androgeny fusses over Synonomous. Gabrielle is baffled. First, she sees Androgeny forcing Synonomous to fight her, now this person is fussing over him. Synonomous calls Androgeny Daddy-Mom and Gabrielle starts asking what she is doing. Androgeny replies rather testily, "My temple was just invaded by an evil spirit, but I'm fine, thank you very much!" During this exchange, a new line was added for Alex Billings. At one point, she tells Gabrielle she was in a "Delta Burke body and wearing Cher clothes!"

[70] Hoping to get some straight answers, Gabrielle wonders aloud who 'Daddy-Mom' is. Androgeny replies that she (or he) is Androgeny and that this is Ambiguous. Frustrated, Gabrielle says, "That's not an ambiguous question!" Clearly amused by Gabrielle, Androgeny mirthfully responds, "It appears you two haven't been p--in' in the woods together!" Androgeny explains that when Ambiguous was born, they "looked between its little legs and discovered that he-slash-she was born with both tools of the trade, so to speak." Ambiguous is aptly named, it seems. Gabrielle thinks that is "cool." Ambiguous, who has been concerned how she would think of him, replies, "You think I'm cool?" Yes, Gabrielle tells him, because she can only see one way of thinking, while Ambiguous can see both male and female sides.


Alti Gets Her Prize

[71] Apparently having finished her smoke, Alti returns to wreak a little more havoc. She takes over Androgeny's body again, welcoming Gabrielle with the words so many fans know by heart, "Well, if it isn't Xena's little b-tch." Alti has Gabrielle by the throat and Synonomous tries to come to her aid. Never one to sidestep a fight, especially one she is sure she can win, Alti trounces the kid, leaving him lying on the ground. Gabrielle attempts to fight Alti. She never was a match for Alti before and she surely is not now. Alti eventually forces Gabrielle to lay down her sais. With Gabrielle now firmly in her clutches, Alti decides to fancy being "worn" by Gabrielle. Lamb was not as good as Androgeny and Androgeny will not reliably submit to Alti, thereby making these characters less than ideal for Alti's plans. Besides, Alti believes it will make Xena crazy, once she learns who is inside. So she takes over Gabrielle's body. Amy Matheny makes a very menacing Alti, with an almost permanent sneer on her face.

[72] Synonomous' intelligence seems to take a hike once Alti absconds with Gabrielle's body. He wonders what Alti has done to Gabrielle. Androgeny makes a verbal slap upside his head, if not a physical one, "Have you not been paying attention?". Androgeny impatiently explains Alti's plan. She has taken over Gabrielle's body because she knows Xena will come to rescue Gabrielle and then Alti will kill Xena, taking Xena's power, and then she will kill Gabrielle. Synonomous asks, rather loudly and hysterically, "But can she kill her? Can anyone really stay dead on this show?" Alti, in Gabrielle's body stands at the front of the stage and licks the sai, much like someone would like a pencil lead tip, saying, "Ooo, Xena wouldn't like that." It is at this point that Gabrielle surfaces, hearing them discuss Xena, crying, "Xena's alive?"

[73] Androgeny decides she/he is going to try to set Gabrielle free, which does not work, of course. Alti/Gabrielle pokes at her with one of the sai and Androgeny runs away, sort of screaming - um - rhythmically. Think erotically. (It is one of those sounds you have to hear to understand. The following line does describe it, however.) Alti/Gabrielle prowls around the stage saying, "They're not coming. Why aren't they coming?" After Androgeny does her little squeals, Alti/Gabrielle says, in a throwaway line, "Well, she's coming." This funny line was added when Alex Billings (Androgeny) joined the cast, and made those "Oh, oh, ohs!" so much more amusing. Needless to say, Billings improved on the ohs by increasing the number of them - and possibly the fervency.

[74] Androgeny has not given up, either. She tells Synonomous they have to have a plan to get Alti out of Gabrielle's body. Unfortunately, it is not much of a plan, because Androgeny really does not know how to force Alti out. Consequently, the "plan" peters out and she finishes with, "That's the plan", and a little ineffectual gesture.


Xena vs. Alti

[75] Now Xena arrives. The animals have preceded her. She zeroes in on Gabrielle. Alti/Gabrielle walks over to give Xena a hug, saying, "Xena darling, I missed you." (This always reminds me of Callisto's line from A NECESSARY EVIL, "Xena, how I've missed you.") Xena tells the person she thinks is Gabrielle that she missed her, too. But Gabrielle manages to briefly surface, crying out Xena's name while in her embrace. Xena looks at Alti/Gabrielle and asks her if she has a frog in her throat.

[76] In the background with Androgeny, Synonomous (Ambiguous), Lamb and Pig, Chicken says, "Fox in the henhouse, fox in the henhouse." Xena stares at Chicken as if she is nuts. Alti/Gabrielle manages to glare at Chicken as well as everyone else as they cluster together, trying desperately to be inconspicuous. Turning back to Gabrielle's resurrected companion, she responds a little bitterly, "Xena, my own, my love, you left me." Was that Alti's view? Or how Alti may think Gabrielle might respond? Xena tells her a bit incredulously, "I was dead!" Xena is still trying to understand Gabrielle. She knows there is something off in her demeanor, but is still treating her like the woman she knew before.

[77] Chicken tries again, "Fox in the henhouse". Alti glares at the group again and they all look elsewhere, again trying not to be seen. Looking evil, indeed, Alti/Gabrielle replies, "Things have changed. I'm my own person now. I have a sidekick. I'm even working on a theme song!" Synonomous decides he is not going to stand by anymore and descends from his perch by his daddy-mom. Gabrielle manages to pop out again, crying, "Nonny, no!" This phrase was driving me nuts until Kym Taborn kindly pointed out that the phrase came from the Renaissance period. They are nonsense words sung in a song, "Hey nonny, nonny no." Shakespeare used a form of the phrase in a song in Much Ado About Nothing, as well as another play. That phrase was used twice in the show and sometimes the audience reacted, but more often, it did not. One could say that this is another pun, both theatrical and verbal. I think I was able to appreciate the phrase because I ran across it sometime in my own musical background.

[78] Alti decks Synonomous. Xena pulls out her sword and begins to circle the person who looks like Gabrielle and saying something to the order of, "There's only one person I know who could be so evil, and that's Alti." Alti/Gabrielle, knowing the jig is up, prepares to fight Xena.

[79] This may have been an apocryphal story, but I was told by one of my Chicago friends that Amy Matheny and Elizabeth Laidlaw wanted to fight each other, which I think is pretty neat. Claudia Allen wrote the play in such a way that they could achieve this. As in all good theater, their battle is at the climactic end of the show. But, of course, Alti does not control Gabrielle for very long. She found that while Gabrielle is a good fighter on her own, she still could not quite compete with such a powerful warrior as Xena.

[80] Just before they begin to fight, Ares and Gaybriel arrive. Ares has a staff and is very happy. He notes that it looks like a fight is about to ensue, which may be why he is happy. Xena wonders what took them so long. Gaybriel flounces across the stage, saying with much sarcasm, "Someone threw me down and had his way with me and he's not queer!" Everyone maneuvers to begin hand-to-hand combat, including Synonomous and Androgeny. Suddenly Gaybriel stops the action with a timeout. He whispers something to Xena and she looks across the stage. There in a corner, is Pussywillow, who mysteriously appears for no particular reason except as a plot device. Xena instructs Pussywillow to go get Aphrodite and to be sure she brings her muff. While Pussywillow is primarily a plot device, she is also a mechanism for a visual joke. It would vary from performance to performance, but most often she would be sitting on the corner of the stage during this scene, wearing a silver boa. On occasion, she would wear Aphrodite's silver sunglasses, perhaps depending on whether Aphrodite was over her hangover or not. For the final performance, there was Pussywillow, wearing the silver shades and the silver boa. Off she goes to find her um…owner?



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