New Version of “The Deer Hunter” Takes Aim at the Funny Bone
When the Chrislip Midtown Players announced that they were going to stage a production of The Deer Hunter, it raised more than a few eyebrows. The movie was known for its frank portrayal of the trauma of war, and there were questions as to how Chrislip theater-goers would react to such a startling drama.
Then it was announced that the production would be directed by Christopher Artell, former drama teacher at Chrislip College, and raised eyebrows gave way to panic.
Artell’s college productions were less than successful by some accounts, and appallingly bad by others. His work earned him the nickname “Chrislip’s Ed Wood.”
The Journal’s Anne-Marie Waterhouse spoke with Artell to find out if his Deer Hunter is as bad as we all think it will be.
Anne-Marie Waterhouse: Chris, the first clue people had that this wasn’t going to be a traditional Deer Hunter was when they got a look at the poster you designed.
Christopher Artell: You mean the one up there?
CA: It screams whimsy, doesn’t it? I first saw The Deer Hunter when I was in college. Seeing those men hunting in the Pennsylvania woods gave rise to so many comic possibilities.
AMW: Did you see the whole movie?
CA: No, I had to leave early. I had an appointment to have my legs waxed.
AMW: Well, it’s very dark. War, death, Russian Roulette.
CA: Oh, ish. Sounds ishy. I don’t do ishy, I do happy. I told my leading man, “You’re playing the Robert DeNiro role, but give me more Adam Sandler!”
AMW: I guess you know that a lot of people have reservations about this play. After all, you have to admit that many of the plays you staged up at the college were failures.
CA: Failures? I should scratch your eyes out, Miss Priss. I would not necessarily admit that I’ve produced failures. Define ‘failures’.
AMW: Artistic, critical and commercial flops.
CA: Well, by those standards, sure.
AMW: Let’s talk about some of those flops. One that comes immediately to mind is your musical, Gagamania!, which was inspired by the success of the Broadway hit, Beatlemania! People reading that title now will assume that your show featured the music of Lady Gaga.
CA: Oh my moon and stars! They would think that, wouldn’t they? The chumps.
AMW: But instead it was a show in which all the lyrics and dialogue were in baby talk. It went into the dumper.
CA: Well, the concept was solid. It’s not my fault that babies aren’t cuter and funnier.
AMW: Then there was your experimental drama, Invisible Mutes. Two hours of an empty, silent stage. Students of theater and philosophy thought it shone a brilliant light on the alienation that exists in modern society. Everybody else thought you just couldn’t think of anything to say, and that no actors wanted to work with you. Which was it?
CA: Mostly that second thing. But mark my words, The Deer Hunter will be a huge success, or my name isn’t Christopher Marion Artell. It will be much better than anything I’ve done before.
AMW: I think it almost has to be.
CA: And right now I want to make the following dedication. I’m dedicating this play to my nieces and nephews, my cats Sam and Diane, and my girlfriend Debbie.
AMW: Beg pardon? Your what?
CA: Yes, my cats! My apartment building allows pets now! Color me happy!