Metro Weekly

‘Monsters of the American Cinema’ Review: Monster High

Prologue's 'Monsters of the American Cinema' tenderly captures the rhythms of family life for a queer stepdad and his teenage son.

Prologue Theatre: Monsters of the American Cinema: Fletcher Lowe, Gerrad Alex Taylor -- Photo: Chris Banks
Monsters of the American Cinema: Fletcher Lowe, Gerrad Alex Taylor — Photo: Chris Banks

Spotted earlier this season expertly essaying a handful of roles in Constellation’s intriguing Incognito, Gerrad Alex Taylor deftly inhabits just one memorable character in Christian St. Croix’s moving Monsters of the American Cinema (★★★★☆), a Prologue Theatre production at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

By the look and sound of this evocative, regional premiere, staged by Prologue artistic director Jason Tamborini, the playwright put that character firmly on the page. Remy Washington (Taylor) is someone we haven’t met onstage: a gay Black single stepdad raising his deceased white husband’s increasingly unruly teenage son Pup (Fletcher Lowe), with whom Remy operates the drive-in movie theater he also inherited.

St. Croix, who is queer and Black, workshopped the play partly with Prologue before its 2022 world premiere at ArtsWest in Seattle, and renders the circumstances of this loving alternative family with affecting specificity and a night-scented air of melancholy.

Both are captured in the production’s tempo, in Nadir Bey’s detailed set for the mobile home Remy and Pup share in Santee, California, and in the lived-in, often testy guardian-teen rapport conveyed by Taylor and Lowe. Between and in the midst of scenes, Remy and Pup take turns addressing the audience to paint the picture of their idiosyncratic existence, and to narrate the mounting conflict that threatens their enduring closeness.

Since 16-year-old Pup was a pup, the pair have bonded like pals over the classic monster movies and musicals that make up the fare at Brian’s Good Time Drive-In. But now, Pup is pulling away from his lone parental figure, absorbing the influence of some homophobic assholes who have recently become his friends.

Drolly funny as wistful widower Remy, Taylor brings sass and conviction to this somewhat displaced soul, who’s increasingly frustrated, like many parents, to find that the child he has loved and nurtured for years seems like a completely different person. As said unpredictable teen, Lowe can appear strained delivering Pup’s adolescent attitude and body language. Though, in a pivotal moment following a fierce blowout between stepdad and son, he registers remorse with heartbreaking authenticity.

Similarly, Tamborini and company strike a chord of authenticity in the portrayal of Remy and Pup’s mutual movie love. Seated together on the roof of their trailer, they watch their favorites at the drive-in, represented with well-timed clips projected on the two cinema-size screens surrounding the stage.

Not only unreeling pointed beats from Dracula, Frankenstein, and Creature from the Black Lagoon (all of which are included in Prologue’s complementary Classic Movie Series), the play considers everyday monsters, too, real and imagined. Remy and Pup might have very different, equally compelling reasons to relate to outcasts like Frankenstein’s Monster.

Their story also is tinged with lighthearted elements of monster movie terror and suspense that reflect and propel the main drama. As Michael Landon transforms into a teenage werewolf on-screen, Pup turns into an insensitive, teenage monster right under Remy’s roof.

Prologue Theatre: Monsters of the American Cinema: Fletcher Lowe, Gerrad Alex Taylor -- Photo: Chris Banks
Monsters of the American Cinema: Fletcher Lowe, Gerrad Alex Taylor — Photo: Chris Banks

The production’s red-lit, stylized take on Pup’s living nightmares doesn’t live up to the play’s ambitions, though. The monster movie undercurrents culminate in a climactic confrontation that, despite the performers’ best efforts, doesn’t achieve the desired effect, mostly due to the lack of effects — lighting or sound or voice modification — that might have really sold the fantasy.

More assuredly, Tamborini’s production engages in the reality of these two people, and the challenges of inheriting an entire life you never expected, including the responsibility of raising somebody else’s kid. Remy and Pup are a sweetly appealing example of how varied families can be, how unique each and everyone is, and the value of finding your family in blood, marriage, or wherever the love flows unconditionally.

Monsters of the American Cinema runs through August 6 at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $45, with discount options available. Call the Atlas Center box office at 202-399-7993, or visit

For the schedule of Prologue’s Summer Classic Movie Series running alongside Monsters of the American Cinema, visit Turn your theater outing into a Double Feature by purchasing a movie ticket for before or after the play.

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