Knight of the Punsters: Game of Groans is a Farcical Fantasy

Allison Lobel by Todd Leykamp

It’s not HBO, it’s live theater as a pack of a dozen or so merry “spanksters” mount a madcap musical spoof of the beloved fantasy series Game of Thrones and try to put the Eros into Westeros. An amiable if mischievous Benji Kaufman plays George R.R. Martin, who introduces and more or less narrates this revival of Shame of Thrones: The Musical, a two-act send-up of that author’s characters and their medieval swords and suits of armor setting.


Shame enjoys poking fun at the backstabbing and sexy hanky-spanky that were the hallmark of Martin’s novels and HBO epic about the cutthroat quest for the Iron Throne. The humor and story ranges from the satirical to slapstick to vaudevillian. Many of the popular long-running series’ beloved dramatis personae are impersonated in the musical parody, from saucy wenches to muscular knights and warriors.


Adorned in a flowing blonde wig, Mandie Hittleman (who also choreographs the mayhem) plays Daenerys Targaryen. To tell you the truth, as portrayed by Emilia Clarke, the “Breaker of Chains” had been my favorite character on the program - until Daeny girl went all Lt. Calley in the final season and got her comeuppance. Alas, the so-called “Mother of Dragons’” fire breathing offspring never make an appearance, which is only to be expected when a low budge stage production attempts to tackle a big budget television series and its special effects. Even worse, unlike Clarke, Hittleman does her “nude” scene in a bodysuit.


Similarly, Erin “Queenie” Stegeman (who wrote Shame’s music with Peter Frintup and co-produced) as Cersei Lannister never performs an au naturel “walk of shame.” Although the play has lots of fun with the un-SCREW-pulous Cersei’s incestuous relationship with her brother, Jaime Lannister (Peter Berube, who also doubles up as Alliser). The buff Ace Marrero lampoons Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo, chief of the nomadic Dothraki, who wed Daenerys.


On the night I eyeballed Shame Billy Finn - who is normal size - substituted for Brad Simanski as the half pint Tyrion Lannister. There are frequent references to Peter Dinklage’s three Emmy Awards (from 2011 to 2019 the show itself scored 47 Emmys), although for some mysterious reason the four foot four inch thesp’s Golden Globe for also portraying Tyrion (my favorite male character in the HBO program) goes unmentioned. And so on.


Shame’s characterizations, comic shtick and choreography are generally amusing. However the “musical’s” instrumentals are all presumably pre-recorded and when this lad goes to the live thee-a-tuh he likes to hear the score preformed live. To be fair, however, all of the singing seems done live. Most if not all of the 13 songs are in the rock mode. Jonny Pearl is the show’s musical director.


The parody’s book and lyrics are by Steven Christopher Parker and Steven Brandon, with Stegeman scribing additional lyrics. Rachael Stein directed the inspired mockery, which includes projections on the theater’s back wall and “high tech” props such as rubber swords and stick horses, which are droll when compared to the lavish budgets and FX of the series. In terms of production values, the play’s costumes by Lena DeLoache and Stein are probably the most outstanding thing about Shame, followed by the hair and makeup by Stein and Ilyssa Stein.


For a takeoff to, well, take off, audiences must first of all be familiar with that which is being caricatured and parodied. Game of Thrones was a very complex program with a multitude of cast members, which could make following the TV series (including long hiatuses from the screen) and its various storylines difficult to follow. So to tell you the truth, I have no idea if a theatergoer unfamiliar with Martin’s plots and characters would be able to “get” Shame of Thrones? However, even a ticket buyer who couldn’t afford to subscribe to Home Box Office is likely to find some of the zany onstage antics to be entertaining, even if he/ she doesn’t fully understand what’s happening and who’s doing what to who.


Be that as it may, there is obviously an audience for this play, which was originally performed in February 2017 at West Hollywood’s Macha Theatre, and then at San Diego and Off-Broadway. A completely different piece entitled Thrones! The Musical Parody also previously played at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre at L.A’s Theatre Row on Santa Monica Blvd. One may not have to be a “Thronie” to enjoy this fantasy farce - but it sure helps, if you want to sit on the Iron Throne of parody.


Shame of Thrones: The Musical is being performed Mondays at 8:00 p.m. through July 8 at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. For tickets and info: