Saturday night saw the premiere of the locally made sitcom pilot for Delusional Donovan a story of an 8-year-old boy and his hallucinations induced by witnessing a shocking event. Writer/Director/Producer duo Mark “Zebra” Thomas and Devan McGrath (whom we interviewed last week) are currently shopping around for networks interested in airing the offbeat comedy so you will likely have to wait awhile to see the show screened again, but get ready for its TV release, because it’s a big success.
One of the crew told me just before the screening grab several drinks, as it would make the show funnier. But mere sips into my first cocktail I was already shaking with laughter. In fact, I think I’m lucky vodka wasn’t coming out of my nose.
Much ado is made of the backstory, that young Donovan is in a fragile mental state due to trauma, but Stray Cat doesn’t actually address that at all. Instead it jumps right in and introduces us to an amazing cadre of characters. This might be a tad confusing for those who haven’t followed the active Portland hype, but could be easily remedied with a title sequence makeover. Though I’m a fan of the short and sweet, and Donovan‘s opening animation is simple yet effective, there’s got to be some background available once it makes it to the wider television audience.
But this is a minor point, and does nothing to dim the shine of Donovan‘s two greatest strengths, the cast and costumes. Everyone and everything in Delusional Donovan is outrageous. This extends to the “real” world as much as Donovan’s fantasies. Everyone is a little bit crazy, and most certainly colorful, from Donovan’s mom, played by 6ft tall drag diva Splendora aka Lee Kyle, to her mullet-wearing RV salesman girlfriend Tammy (performance artist Amber Martin) to their blinged out stoner neighbors trying to make it big as the next Kreayshawn.
Whether they’re huffing, puffing, being cajoling or controlling, each character exudes distinct personality and weirdness. From the amount of drugs, hallucinations, delusions of grandeur or rollerskating in a cat suit that the adults in the show exhibit, the mentally unstable child actually ends up looking like the sanest one. And actor Dylan Hall plays the straight man(child) to perfection. His facial expressions are adorable and apt.
But to make it all really work they needed to have great outfits and sets. And boy do they. I’m guessing Production Manager Allison May had something to do with this, and indeed she even cameos in the episode as the costumer for the musical within the episode Cats on Thin Ice. These furry creations are at the heart of the storyline but there’s also some great 90s kickback teenybopper clothes, a host of Asian inspired garb, and my personal favorite, an entire straightjacket-like outfit made of zippers for Cats’ rival production Anne Frankenstein. Yes, it’s as inappropriate as it sounds.
All of this loudness takes place in the quietly cloudy neighborhood setting of grey-skyed Portland, Oregon, and it contrasts perfectly. The little yellow duplex that Donovan traverses back and forth from his home to his neighbors’ is perfectly quaint and reminiscent of the traditional family sitcom that Donovan parodies so well.
The only thing I came away with a little confused about is what, exactly, is going on with Tammy’s hallucinations of a Chinese Emperor. But maybe that’s the point. It’s the one joke that’s just random. And it’s just the perfect little cherry on top.