Spotlight: Don't Drink the Water

Pigs Eye Theatre
In Pigs Eye Theatre's new production of Woody Allen's '60s comedy, Axel Magee (Aaron Coker) is a thick-skulled Yalie with a penchant for screwing up everything he touches. He's kept afloat only by his famous and powerful father (wait, that reminds me of someone. It's on the tip of my...oh, let's just keep going). The action takes place at the U.S. embassy in an unnamed Eastern European commie dictatorship at the height (or was it the depths?) of the Cold War. Ari Hoptman and Karen Wiese-Thompson star as bickering husband-and-wife tourists who are chased into the embassy by enraged secret police after a misunderstanding involving recreational photography and state secrets. On Jerry Loew's suitably drab set (all government beige, with LBJ's canine mug staring out from a framed photo), the players fret about the international intrigue that follows and set about devising an escape. Director Jay Urmann gets mixed results from his cast, though Wiese-Thompson and Hoptman bounce off each other with a sense of warmth beneath their carping. Hoptman is a more relaxed albeit caustic Woody Allen, dropping stink bombs with a perpetual frown. Allen's script contains more corn than the Iowa State Fair, but it's treated with affection here. A particular standout is Wade A. Vaughn as Father Drobney, a priest stuck within the embassy lest he be shot--Vaughan is bug-eyed crazy in the role, wound so tight one fears he might pop a vein. Coker brings youthfulness and a likeable presence to his character, though at times he struggles with the dialogue-heavy script and seems to fall short of mastering the role in a way that might add a crucial element to the comedy. It's easy to forget that at the time Allen wrote this piece of fluff, schoolchildren were cowering under their desks in fear as part of their regular curriculum, and instant annihilation was considered an everyday possibility. So was this silliness a subversive tongue stuck out at the entire concept of taking death and politics seriously? If so, this show gets us about halfway there.
 
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