Friday, June 09, 2017

Titanic Theatre Company Launches "Penny Penniworth" by Chris Weikel - At Central Square Theater - A Total Delight!

Titanic Theatre Company has a track record of making me laugh. I think the walls of the Black Box at Central Square Theater are still reverberating from my belly laughs at their IRNE Award winning comedy "The Polish Joke." And I know they must have heard my guffaws last evening throughout all of the 02139 ZIP code. The current production of "Penny Penniworth" is a total delight that must be seen.

If you are a fan of Charles Dickens, then you must not miss this send-up of "The play that Dickens would have written had he lived long enough." It is a wonderful amalgamation of Penny Dreadful low brow literature, melodrama, unlikely plot twists, gender-bending characters played by a quartet of gifted actors. lighting-fast changes of scenes, costumes, and characters. Think of the portion of "Nicholas Nickelby" when Nicholas and Smike escape from the Dotheboys Hall and encounter the traveling acting troupe of Mr. Vincent Crummles. If Crummles had mounted an eighty minute long production, it would have looked and felt like "Penny Penniworth," with a dash of Monty Python and "Noises Off" thrown in for good measure. Why, this play even features a brief appearance by an "Infant Phenomenon"!

Playwright Chris Weikel must know Dickens inside and out, for his allusions to Dickensian names, characters, locations, and implausible plot devices are brilliant and non-stop. Director Sarah Gazdowicz has this zesty troupe performing at an appropriate breakneck and frenetic pace. Ms. Gazdowicz makes a cameo appearance at the top of the show to explain that the struggling little acting troupe is short one person because of last minute "artistic differences," but the other four actors - in the spirit of "the show must go on" - have decided to mount the play short-handed.

The members of the cast are:
  • Ashley Risteen - Among her varied roles in this play, she shines most brightly - or darkly - as the mourning Ms. Havasnort, whose fiance died twenty years ago, and she wears nothing but black widow's weeds. She has also lost her marbles, and needs a companion to watch over her. 
  • Enter the impoverished Penny Penniworth (Caroline Keeler), who shares a London solicitor with Ms. Havasnort. Ms. Keeler is at the top of her game, when, because the acting troupe is missing a key actor, the actor she is portraying is forced to play both Penniworth and her abductor, the malodorous Mr. Dump. The scene in which she absconds with herself is the height of silliness, and a fun conceit.
  • Brooks Reeves shows his protean skills as Hotchkiss Spit, the widowed Mrs. Penniworth, and a variety of other characters. As Mr. Spit, he speaks in an incomprehensible accent that is somewhere between Yorkshire and the Muppets Swedish Chef. Every word he says must be translated by Penny, whom he loves. But alas, he is abducted (there are several abductions in this tragicomedy!) by pirates in Maracaibo, and we never see him again - or do we?
  • Isaiah Plovnick is Rupert Stryfe, scion of the Stryfe family and rival to Mr. Spit for Penny's hand. If there were an IRNE Award for Best Beard and Moustaches, it would go by acclamation to Mr. Plovnick. This actor also shines as a character with a speech impediment that has his chin whiskers shaking in anticipation of the successful completion of a syllable. There are several scenes in which the fact that Mr. Stryfe had a metal plate surgically implanted in his head offers up limitless opportunities for sight gags galore.

Costumes are by Erica Desautels, Scenic Design and Props by Rebecca Lehrhoff, Lighting by Connor S. Van Ness, Sound by Sarah Gazdowicz.

Have your physician write a prescription for a night at the theater and a heavy dose of "Penny Penniworth" to cure whatever ails you. This play is a tonic for the soul. It will run at Central Square Theater through June 25th.

Titanic Theatre Website



1 comment:

Unknown said...

It was lovely meeting you Al. Thanks so much for coming! -Alisha