Jake Chapman is Billy Baker/Spider Guy and Tarreyn Van Slyke is Mary Lou Peterson in The Gaslight Theatre's "The Incredible Spider-Guy."


It was 108 degrees outside on a recent Sunday. Inside The Gaslight Theatre, the air is cool as the band warms up the audience with "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Really now, how could you refuse such an event?

Not convinced? Here's another reason: Gaslight's current offering, "The Incredible Spider-Guy," is a complete hoot.

It's a new play from the sometimes twisted, always corn-filled mind of Peter Van Slyke, who also directs this delicious spoof.

The Peter Parker character from the comic is Billy Baker here. The love of Peter's life, Mary Jane Watson, is given the moniker Mary Lou Peterson.

You might find a few similar adventures between the Spiderman and Spider-Guy characters, and he and Mary Lou share an upside-down kiss much like the one in the hot scene from the 2002 movie.

But the Gaslight version has dialogue and antics you'd never find in the comic or movie.

Such as intermittent rock 'n' roll songs to punctuate a point. Or not. Songs such as "Hang on Spidey, Spidey hang on" to the tune of "Hang On Sloopy."

And bad jokes: "Don't make me get ugly," warns one character.

"Too late," snaps another in reply.

You get the idea.

What made "Spider-Guy" particularly delicious at this Sunday matinee was the genuine joy with which this cast of characters performed.

Jake Chapman's Billy/Spider-Guy was a clumsy geek as Billy, smooth and graceful as Spider-Guy.

Mary Lou was given an innocence and honest effervescence by Tarreyn Van Slyke (the playwright/director's daughter).

Playing the bad guys with just the right amount of menace were Jacob Brown as Edgar Junior, a spoiled classmate of Billy's and Mary Lou's; David Orley as Junior's pop, E. Edgar Eagleton, the publisher of the local paper who isn't above taking a bribe or two for a story; Todd Thompson, who gave the evil business mogul Mathias Maxwell-turned-Green-Gremlin a sinister edge that would have made Spiderman's creators, Stan Lee and Steve Ditkon, shudder; and Heather Stricker as Maxwell's assistant Velma Vultura. The character is Russian. Or Czech. Or of indeterminate origin. She walks like a vamp and acts like a devil. Stricker was a stitch.

Filling out the cast was Janee Page as Mackenzie Maxwell, a spoiled valley girl with a knock-out voice; Mike Yarema as the good-guy-turned-bad-turned good, Dr. Cornelius Crocodilius, aka Doc Croc, and Cass Anaya as Billy's kind-hearted Uncle Gus, who gave Spider-Guy his not-too-catchy motto: "With great power comes great accountability."

The story is about what you'd expect: Bad guys want to rule the world; good guys want to save it. Damsel in distress and a hero to rescue her. And so on.

And the sets are about what you'd expect from designer Tom Benson: inventive, witty and most effective.

Tucson's summers don't give us a lot to laugh about - we're generally too busy seeking out air conditioned places. The Gaslight, however, is a place to forget the heat and indulge in silly antics.

And to sing along to "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini."

What's not to love about that?


• What: The Gaslight Theatre's "The Incredible Spider-Guy."

• Playwright/director: Peter Van Slyke.

• Where: The Gaslight, 7010 E. Broadway.

• When: Regular showtimes are 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 6 and 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 and 6 p.m. Sundays. Today, there is just one show, at 5 p.m. Some 3 p.m. matinees are occasionally added on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

• Tickets: $18.50, with discounts available.

• Reservations/information: thegaslighttheatre.com or 886-9428.

• Running time: About 90 minutes, with one intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.