Paul Overstreet has written a lot of country songs. They're good songs musically, but the lyrical content of many of them is cringe-worthy. But that did not deter Santa Monica's Ruskin Group Theatre Company, which is currently premiering Sneaky Ole Time, a jukebox musical built around his catalog.
The show, written by Stephen Mazur, is blatantly sexist in its use of one-dimensional characters to explore whether marriage is a good or bad thing. When Jack (Alexander Hitzig) stumbles into the Halfway Home bar, he's not sure if he should propose to his girlfriend. The male patrons of the bar, decrying marriage, encourage him not to, while the women are adamant that marriage improves men.
The story is full of glaring misogyny, but it reaches a low point with the song “It Takes a Whole Lot of Liquor to Like Her,” which explains that women are only tolerable if you're blackout drunk when you're around them. Beyond the storyline, Tor Campbell's choreography and director Michael Myers' blocking are both alarming, often reducing the female characters to mere sex objects.
Marriage is a complex subject, but Sneaky Ole Time oversimplifies it, relying on tired tropes to come to a conclusion that enforces repressive gender norms. It's banal and offensive.
Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica; through Sept. 19. (310) 397-3244, ruskingrouptheatre.com
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