Creatures from the Black and Sexual Lagoon: Crossing the Racial, Gender (and Species?) Divides

Logan Leonardo Arditty and Kevin Daniels; all Photos by Jeff Lorch

We live in contentious, troubled times when Americans are increasingly divided along political, ethnic, sexual lines – consider the fact that a recent box office hit is a movie about a near-future embattled USA entitled, literally, Civil War. Now along comes playwright Christian St. Croix’s Monsters of the American Cinema, which instead poses in stark contrast the unity of two polar opposites. Remy (portrayed by Kevin Daniels, an actor so large that he played Magic Johnson in the 2012 Broadway production of Magic/ Bird) is a Black gay man, who operates a drive-in movie theater at Santee, San Diego County. As Remy’s former husband has died, he has stepped up to the plate to raise his late partner’s son, Pup (Logan Leonardo Arditty), a white straight teenager of average height.

These roommates are very different indeed – think Oscar and Felix on steroids, locked in a substitute father-son relationship. But in addition to the deceased dad/spouse, Remy and Pup share something else in common: Both are big time fans of the monster movies often screened at their drive in. Clips (projections design by Michelle Hanzelova-Bierbauer) of Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, gigantic insects,  Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Gill-man, etc., from vintage films are projected onto scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set that depicts the interior of Pup and Remy’s household.

Can these diametrically opposed characters overcome their differences? Can a homosexual adult advise a heterosexual adolescent of limited, if any romantic experience, how to navigate the boy-girl dating world of hormonal teens? Especially during high school homecoming season? On top of that, Caucasian Pup pursues the offstage Mia, an African American classmate he fancies. Is Remy able to guide his adopted son through these tricky interracial waters?

The eponymous monsters are, of course, metaphorical. Both characters are haunted by the loss of a loved one, and each must also contend with the societal ills of a contemporary USA beset by homophobia, racism, addiction issues, etc. Over the arc of this 95-minute one-acter presented without intermission, the characters must confront those inner demons symbolized by the nightmarish titular terrors. Without divulging details, let’s just say that Pup and Remy evolve to the point where another movie genre comes to obsess them. But your plot spoiler averse reviewer won’t ruin the fun and let you know what category of film the stage’s cineastes develop a newfound taste for before the proverbial curtain drops.

Speaking of things cinematic, this two-hander would likely be even better if adapted for the screen than on it is the stage. In addition to editing into a movie’s structure the various scenes from monster pictures, Monsters of the American Cinema goes back and forth in time and in and out of dreams. This fluidity lends itself more naturally to the motion picture medium. Buster Keaton’s 1924 masterpiece of montage and dreamlike storytelling, Sherlock Jr., which was just screened (with a live orchestra!) during the TCM Classic Fim Festival, is a stellar case in point. A screen version would also open up St. Croix’s play so that oft-mentioned offstage characters, such as Mia and the cross-dressing student Randall, could actually be embodied. Show is always better than tell.

Be that as it may, the seasoned thesp Daniels and relative newcomer Arditty deliver finely honed performances helmed by John Perrin Flynn, Rogue Machine’s truly venerable Founding Artistic Director, a gem of our L.A. theater scene. The San Diego Union-Tribune insightfully noted that S.D.-based St. Croix has an “ability to write multidimensional characters with wry humor and truth,” and Flynn’s deftly-directed cast personify this observation in a play likely to interest theatergoers interested in racial, LGBTQ, addiction, adolescence and father-son subjects – as well as movie buffs!

St. Croix’s play dramatizes this above all else: What we have in common is more powerful than what keeps us apart. Solidarity is stronger than separateness. United we stand, divided we fall, for divisiveness is truly the monster that bedevils America. 

Rogue Machine’s Monsters of the American Cinema is being performed Mondays (no performance May 13), Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through May 19 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Avenue, L.A., California, 90048. For reservations call ​(855)585-5185 or

L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" (see: