“The Fool and the Red Queen,” a world premiere at the Lounge Theatre, is actually two distinct plays – the sixth and seventh offerings in Murray Mednick’s “Gary Plays,” which feature Mednick’s recurring character of Gary, a hapless actor involved in sundry surreal exploits.
In the first act, Gary auditions for Chauncey and Rondell (Jack Kehler and Gray Palmer), dubious film producers of an exquisitely pretentious stripe. After much comically circular dialogue, Gary (John Diehl), a sad sack still grappling with the recent death of his son, is cast as medieval knight Rikki.
Act II takes us into the court of the Red Queen (hilarious Julia Prud'homme), a mad monarch whose favorite pastime is browbeating her lovelorn Fool (humorously morose Bill Celentano, who can do one mean back flip). Banished, the Fool winds up in the inn of Don Antonio (Peggy A. Blow, in the standout turn of the evening). When the Red Queen arrives on the scene, she orders that the repentant Rikki, who has taken up residence at the inn, be executed on the morrow.
That deceptively linear plot gives rise to Mednick's typically tangential musings, a dizzying blend of Borscht Belt comedy, beat poetry and scattershot philosophy. The technically innovative staging by Mednick and Guy Zimmerman, Mednick's longtime collaborator from the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, is grounded in superb design – Jeffrey Atherton’s set, Matt Richter’s lighting, John Zalewski’s sound, Brad L. Cooper’s cinematography and Ann Closs-Farley's supremely silly costumes.
An indefatigable gadfly, Mednick has been flying in the face of theatrical convention since the 1960s. Judging from this defiantly offbeat effort, custom has not staled his infinite variety.
“The Fool and the Red Queen,” Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 24. $25. (323) 960-7740. www.plays411.com/RedQueen. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.