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‘The Summoning of the Flamingo of Love’ flies back to Bar Harbor

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BAR HARBOR - In 2005, a group of college students led by writer/director and MDI native Mike Perlman staged what was created to be “the lamest play ever written” at Bar Harbor’s historic Criterion Theatre.

The comedy troupe’s original goal of filming the sold-out audience’s disdain for the preposterous story titled “The Summoning of the Flamingo of Love” backfired when it became a huge hit. Thirteen years later, the show is scheduled to fly again for one night only - Friday, April 20 - in its original Bar Harbor home.

“I attend a lot of live theatre and I can guarantee that you will never see another show like this one,” Perlman told me during a phone interview. “It’s rare enough to see a completely original play, let alone one that is filled to the brim with bad cardboard props, spandex, shirtless men and innuendo.”

Inspired by Monty Python, Adult Swim and films “The Princess Bride” and “Waiting for Guffman,” Perlman and his all-star cast will take on nearly 50 characters for this “Flamingo of Love” resurrection. Perlman promises “electrifying musical and dance numbers, endlessly terrible deaths and select celebrity cameos” during the show.

The original inspiration for “The Summoning of the Flamingo of Love” came to Perlman during the summer of 2004, when he saw a notice about an open mic event in Northeast Harbor and began knocking around potential ideas with a group of theatre friends.

“One of us said ‘Let’s try to write the worst possible play we can write’ and we did, complete with terrible acting and dreadful props,” he said. “We added our own characters complete with non sequiturs and terrible dialogue. Unashamedly, we also plugged in lots of masturbation jokes. They’re subtle though, which speaks to the art.”

Believing the audience would revolt at the obvious absurdity unfolding on the stage, the cast intended to film the crowd turning on them with the intention of editing the expected calamitous reaction into a Tom Green-style comedy sketch.

To the cast’s shock, the audience got it and “Flamingo of Love” became a big hit, complete with sold out crowds and even a public protest resulting from one of the cast members being suspended from school for participating in a show “with such obvious poor taste.”

One of the original audience members recently found a 2005 Bar Harbor Times story about the show and sent it to Perlman.

“The newspaper story was titled ‘A Confederacy of Doofuses,’ which refers to us in our tights, clutching our cardboard props and staring very demurely at the camera,” Perlman says. “When I saw it, I thought ‘Oh my God. We could totally do this again.’”

Perlman gathered the original cast and began rehearsals in January. When one of the actors had to unexpectedly pull out of this reboot three weeks ago, the group was disappointed but understanding.

“It’s a shame because he was perfect for the role,” Perlman said.

Undeterred, the role was soon recast with a new member who was actually a teenager in the audience for the play’s original 2005 run.

“He comes from a very theatrical family and he’s fantastic,” said Perlman.

Instead of a one-time only revival, what if this performance at the Criterion on April 20 is actually the start of a second life for “Flamingo of Love?”

“Without a doubt, I would love to keep working on this,” he said. “I think it’s an ever-evolving project. The ideal audience for this show is college kids and people who understand the self-deprecating, bad-for-bad’s sake nature of the show. We make no apologies whatsoever for how bad it is, except in the program. Oh, and the director apologizes to the audience at the beginning of the show. So we only make two apologies for how bad the show is.”

On the stage, Perlman says that he and his castmates commit “one thousand percent to every bit of terribleness.”

“It is so terrible that people will absolutely love it. They will be on the edge of their seats until the end of the show.”

(Tickets for “The Summoning of the Flamingo of Love,” scheduled for Friday, April 20 at 8 p.m., range from $12 to $20 and can be purchased at www.CriterionTheatre.org.)

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