Maybe it was the fact that June Raphael and Casey Wilson were both born the same year as I was, which they announced during the introductory video clips they showed of them as adolescents, performing musical theatre in their respective homes. Or maybe it was that they both willingly showed videos of themselves from the awkward teenage years that it seems most everyone else wants to hide — whatever it was, there’s something so winsome about Raphael and Wilson, whether they’re 13 or 26, onstage or on camera, that you can’t help but grin (or guffaw) as they lampoon the stereotypes that run rampant through Generation Y-Me.
As they performed Rode Hard and Put Away Wet in front of a sold-out house at Theatre 99, it was interesting to see which skits really sent the audience members into conniptions. Their opening bit/song, “How Lovely to Be a White Girl,” struck a nerve with anyone who’s had run-ins with what some might call the laziest, most self-involved segment of America’s population — as Raphael and Wilson emerged wearing those tiny tennis-style skirts and faux Ugg boots, there was a collective groan, followed by many collective laughs. They added in a nice local touch when they slightly altered a line in the song, singing: “How lovely to be a white girl / and gossip with our own / Pretending we’re from the ghetto / When Mt. Pleasant is our home.” Boy, does a little research go a long way!
The musical theatre backgrounds of both girls serve them ridiculously well in this forum, as their strong voices can project even a quiet statement to the back of the theatre. The segment of the show that really seemed to soar was Raphael’s monologue performance as a sloshed maid-of-honor at a bourgeois wedding, admonishing the happy couple that “marriage is really, really hard work” in between snippy, biting, occasionally lewd asides to her husband, Gary.
Another especially raucous bit came courtesy of Raphael in one of the duo’s video shorts, “Caffeine: A Love Story.” No, literally, the funny bit was in her tiny white shorts, as she and Wilson portrayed those people who just can’t function without hourly injections of caffeine … and I think we all know what happens when you drink some coffee on an empty stomach (but with full intestines). Let’s just say it was the one scatological joke in the show, and as such, it was 100 times as effective.
Of course, Wilson was no slouch, either, especially in the final scene, where both women play actresses named Gloria who are competing at a callback audition, which eventually culminates in a show-stopping performance of Laura Branigan’s ’80s tune of the same name.
It’s obvious that both women are genuinely funny, intelligent actresses who understand that the trick to getting an audience to really connect with the stage performers is to balance just the right amount of poignancy with the humor. We should feel honored that these two keep coming back to Charleston, even as their stars keep rising higher and higher with every newly converted Rode Hard fan.
RODE HARD AND PUT AWAY WET • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99 • Fri. May 27 & 28, 5 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • 554-6060