Ditzy Desiree launched her career as a neck model after being discovered south of Gandy Boulevard. Dirty politician Gwen abducted Mayor Bob Buckhorn. And who knows which social climber sold Gawker a Hulk Hogan sex tape?
The Realish Housewives of South Tampa, written and performed by mostly Second City theater troupe-trained improvisers, plays through Sunday at the Jaeb Theater at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Local tweaks at each stop on the "glam-bitious" parody tour indulge some pretty broad generalizations of some pretty broads.
Why did the Times send me, and not our performing arts critic? Because I cover the social scene in Tampa, and know our real-life society characters pretty well. It was a test. How did this reality show spoof stack up to South Tampa's reality?
Lori McClain as Ravonka, Lindsey Pearlman as Brooke, Katy Carolina Collins as CL, Katie Caussin as Gwen and Emjoy Gavino as Desiree capitalize on the fearless style of Bravo channel's franchise, Real Housewives of you-name-it, Beverly Hills to New York, Athens to Auckland.
Stereotypes? Sure. Catty? Not overly, and there's nothing to exclude North of Kennedy ladies from snarking as a team sport. Everyone can have fun fitting friends' faces to these self-promoting personalities.
Jackson Evans referees as Randy Bowen, "rhymes with Cohen," a wink-wink to Bravo host Andy. He opens with five frenemies unfurling a Gasparilla pirate flag and ends the episode with a farcical cat fight involving a dog named Pinot Grigio and a slew of pillow feathers.
Each character owns her ego in this partly-scripted, partly-improvised Peyton Place. The audience especially enjoyed Doug, the good sport in the front row twice prompted to mad-lib the blanks as CL's philandering, fourth husband.
Baroness Ravonka's estranged daughter Prosecco, this time a guest plucked from the back of the crowd, left a taste for even more improv.
Cluelessness about a charity event hit the mark with each mispronunciation of Ravonka's fundraiser's beneficiaries. Were they victims of a hurricane? A serial killer or a brutal dictator? Didn't matter as long as there was a signature drink named for the cause. Talk of a Luau for Melanoma and the annual Black & White Lupus Ball felt familiar to me.
No soap opera is complete without an addiction. Seems Desiree craves FroYo so much that she ate it off the men's room floor at the Mons Venus. A quick intervention led to an exclusive rehab center under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Girls night out audiences laughed at the localized attitude, like when self-made, luxury sweat pants "buttwear" designer Brooke claims, "I wasn't born with a tiara on my head. I'm from Ybor City."
Did the show capture Tampa's socialites perfectly? It nailed about a dozen Tampa references, things that could be easily swapped out for performances in other cities. That's likely the intention, but at least the producers are doing their homework.
The show did confirm one thing: We're ready for our own show, Bravo.