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June 06, 2009

The Huntington’s “Pirates!” Shake Their Booty

Sexually charged “plundering” of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” bobs along merrily on a sea of contemporary humor

If you like a good stiff shot of Captain Morgan’s® as the spike in your quaff of Coke®, then you’ll love the intoxicating send-up of Gilbert and Sullivan currently docked at the Huntington TheatrePirates Company in Boston. Called simply Pirates! (or Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder’d), this bowdlerized version of The Pirates of Penzance plays fast and loose with the original comic opera, shifting the place and time from England during the Victorian era back to the Caribbean of the 16th century. In addition, modern-day potty humor and in-your-face rap pepper the vastly revised book and lyrics penned by co-creator Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde).

The result is a sort of anachronistic Black-Beard-meets-Jack-Sparrow mash-up of swarthy, swashbuckling brigands spouting frequent contemporary ribald asides. If you enjoy Disneyworld and the underground water ride that spawned a mega-million-dollar movie franchise, then Pirates! is precisely your cup of yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

While recent merchant ship highjackings have cast a serious pall on Hollywood’s more romantic image of Old World piracy, this raucous “plundering” of the G&S classic is a good natured throwbackMajor-General that paints a picture of snarling seafarers who go all weak in the knees once they hit dry land. You see, like all good sailors coming into port, the boys just want to have fun. But a nasty curse that robs them of their land legs dooms them to stay afloat forever – that is, unless they can marry themselves off to fair young virgins. Enter the island’s Major-General (the delightfully droll Ed Dixon) and his brood of six dimwitted blonde look-a-likes – plus one brunette named Mabel (golden voiced Farah Alvin), who in this version is a brainy adventuress – and the course is set for lots of sexually charged tomfoolery.

This new slant on an old salt – conceived and shaped by Benjamin along with director Gordon Greenberg and arranger John McDaniel – preserves the basic plot elements of The Pirates of Penzance. Young Frederic (a suitably curly-haired, dewy-eyed and rosy-cheeked Anderson Davis) is freed from his indentured servitude to the Pirate King (a handsomely swaggering Steve Kazee) upon reaching his 21st birthday. But wait! An “ingenious paradox” – a comic technicality that renders Frederic younger than he thought he was – keeps him from achieving independence and enjoying an honest life beside Mabel, his newfound love.

Also remaining in tact in Pirates! is the soft spot that the Pirate King has for orphans, along with the many jokes that arise from this incongruous fact. However, much of Gilbert’s original giddy wit and cleverly couched social and political satire is lost in sophomoric sit-com updates. Many of Benjamin’s additions to the book are funny, yes, but her oddly interpolated lyrics pale against the brilliance of the originals. Instead of adding shrewd insights into contemporary foibles and hypocrisies, they merely add crude winks to common targets that have been similarly skewered countless times on shows like Saturday Night Live.

Some transformations work quite well. The Sergeant (Mel Johnson, Jr.) and his corps de Police, for example, benefit greatly from an unexpected but perfectly apt Reggae/Calypso arrangement of their second act number “Tarantara.” Mabel also becomes a very interesting early feminist whose wizardry at mathematics both amazes and entrances Frederic. King Fred RuthThe character of Ruth (the leggy, lithe and limber Cady Huffman), however, suffers from an identity crisis. Previously written as Frederic’s dowager nurse, here she is re-envisioned as a voluptuous sex toy of the Pirate King and his crew. Dressed as a commanding vixen, she looks as though she will wield some real power as the story unfolds. But Huffman, a Tony Award winner for playing the kittenish Swedish window dressing named Ulla in The Producers, plays Ruth as – well, a kittenish piece of window dressing whose greatest claim to fame is that she looks fabulous in thigh high boots. Instead of being the truly liberated and unapologetic pirate queen that’s promised, she ends up as little more than a well endowed object of juvenile panting and leering.

Kazee, on the other hand, has wicked good fun channeling Johnny Depp as the Pirate King. Sure, it’s an obvious rip off, complete with dreadlocks, long fingernails and bandana. But he does his impersonation so well and exudes such devilish charm that you laugh right along with him. He is at his roguish best when bantering with the blustering Dixon during the exhilarating tongue-twister “A Modern Major-General” (“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that middle part,” he muses) or when flirting with an (un)suspecting audience member and fumbling with her family jewels. Although Kazee’s voice unfortunately lacks the silky rich baritone needed to rattle the rafters in his namesake song “The Pirate King,” his commanding presence and impeccable comic timing more than make up for the occasional rough note.

As Frederic, Davis is the perfect portrait of innocence. His acting is completely unaffected, and his wide-eyed, puppy-dog demeanor is utterly endearing. Frederic and MabelBut his voice is problematic at times, too, particularly when reaching into his upper register. His duet “Stay, Frederic, Stay” with the magnificently mellifluous Alvin as Mabel, though, is the epitome of lyric sweetness.

Despite the spottiness of some of the show’s revisions, a terrific ensemble keeps the wind blowing in this rollicking pirate ship’s sails. Their collective energy propels the evening forward joyously. Kristen Sergeant, Julia Osborne, Sarah Ziegler, Erica Spyres, Brittney A. Morello and Krista Buccellato as the Major-General’s deliciously vapid filial sextet manage to twitter, simper and sigh together hilariously as one. They are the very model of a Major-General’s migraine. Their hale and hearty pirate suitors are equally entertaining, leaping, tumbling, and exuberantly executing Denis Jones’ athletic choreography. All joyfully embrace Gordon Greenberg’s tongue-in-cheek vaudeville-style direction. They cavort and careen nonstop across David C. Woolard’s breathtaking, nautical-inspired set.

Pirates! is not your grandfather’s Gilbert and Sullivan. Low-brow burlesque often obscures the more subtle, albeit scathing, social commentary that was the hallmark of the original. It is, however, a great deal of frothy fun. So if your head comes above the bottom of the welcome sign as you enter the Pirates of the Caribbean, simply strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Cast in order of appearance:

Steve Kazee, Pirate King; Caesar Samayoa, Samuel; Anderson Davis, Frederic; Cady Huffman, Ruth; Kristen Sergeant, Kate; Julia Osborne, Edith; Sarah Ziegler, Jane; Erica Spyres, Isabel; Brittney A. Morello, Pippa; Krista Buccellato, Cornelia; Mel Johnson, Jr., Sergeant; Farah Alvin, Mabel; Ed Dixon, Major-General

Book and lyrics by William S. Gilbert; music by Arthur S. Sullivan; conceived by Gordon Greenberg, Nell Benjamin and John McDaniel; additional book and lyrics by Nell Benjamin; music supervision and arrangements by John McDaniel; choreography by Denis Jones; directed by Gordon Greenberg; music direction by F. Wade Russo; scenic design by David C. Woolard; lighting design by Jeff Croiter; sound design by Drew Levy and Tony Smolenski IV; orchestrations by Dan DeLange; fight direction by Michael Rossmy

Performances: Now through June 14, Huntington Theatre Company, Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston

Tickets: Available at the box office by calling 617-266-0800 or visiting http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/

PHOTOS BY T. CHARLES ERICKSON: The ensemble of Pirates; Ed Dixon as the Major-General; Steve Kazee as the Pirate King, Anderson Davis as Frederic; Cady Huffman as Ruth; Anderson Davis and Farah Alvin as Mabel



June 03, 2009

Lorenzo Lamas: The Leader of the Pack

Film and TV star Lorenzo Lamas, known for bad boy roles in the past, cuts a commanding figure as Zach in Ogunquit Playhouse’s 77th season opener of “A Chorus Line” through June 13

Lorenzo LamasTwo years ago Hollywood’s Lorenzo Lamas shed his action-adventure image to make his stage debut as the King of Siam in the Ogunquit Playhouse production of The King and I. This summer he returns to the venerable 77-year-old Maine seacoast theatrical institution, stretching himself even further as director-choreographer Zach in the greatest of all backstage musicals, A Chorus Line.

BroadwayWorld.com's Jan Nargi spoke with the star by phone the day after the show opened officially to the press. Sounding tired, happy, and perhaps a little bit relieved that the first night went so well, Lamas shared his thoughts about the role, his castmates, and his future – in and out of musical theater.

BWW: I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me again as you did a couple of years ago. How does it feel being back at Ogunquit?

LL: I love Ogunquit. The community is great. It’s such an idyllic spot in the country. And the playhouse stands alone, I think, in its uniqueness and longevity.

BWW: Yes, 77 years! That’s a long time. So tell me about your approach to the role of Zach. Did you take some dance lessons to prepare for this or have you done dance in the past?

LL: No. I’m not a dancer. But Luis Villabon the director/choreographer worked with me a bit before we started rehearsals just to see what I could and couldn’t do. It was all very evident within half an hour what I couldn’t do. (Laughs) The character of Zach is really – I guess you could say he’s like the captain of the ship, and he has his assistant in the character of Larry, who is really his lieutenant. Luis thought that I should concentrate on the acting part of the role and not so much the dancing part. He felt I should delegate the dancing instructions to the dancers using Larry. So that’s what we did. I do a little bit of dancing here and there. But I personally did not want to attempt to dance more than I did because I didn’t want to upstage the real dancers in the show that know what they’re doing. I didn’t want it to seem like it didn’t fit. My role is really that of the leader – the choreographer that doesn’t really need to do it anymore. He has people to demonstrate for him. So we focused on the character. We focused on his strength, on what his motivation is, and what he wants to get done in this afternoon at a dance audition.

BWW: That’s actually how it was in the original. I was one of the very fortunate people to see the original cast in the original Broadway production. So you’re actually doing it in a way that’s much more in line with the original production than the recent revival.

LL: That’s interesting because I know Luis wanted to do the show more like the original. I mean to the point where every single line, word for word, is from the book. There’s no license taken with any of the movement or the dialog. It’s all being done the way Michael Bennett saw it 35 years ago.

BWW: That is interesting. I did see the national tour of the Broadway revival and while it also recreated every move, it felt kind of sterile. It didn’t feel fresh. It didn’t have the heart.

LL: Why is that, do you think?

BWW: I think they were concentrating so hard on recreating the original and not wanting to do anything different that they didn’t really get to the heart and soul of the characters. It was more mimicry than organic. And so I was very pleased with the Ogunquit production because it was so fresh and honest. I felt like I was seeing something for the first time.

LL: Well that’s wonderful. I’m glad you felt that way. It’s quite an amazing story. Each dancer has a very unique story to tell. And people that have never seen the show before will appreciate that, I think. Quillin and CompanyThey are this chorus of dancers, the behind-the-scenes supportive roles who are in so many Broadway productions. They never get their fair due, their moment in the spotlight, so to speak, their 15 minutes. And this is really a tribute to them. So it’s very important that their individuality comes out. I’m sitting in the back of the theater on the mike for the good middle part of the show and I’m watching the show like an audience member. I’m very taken with the performances and the skill and precision of our company. I’m very proud of our company the way we put this thing up in seven days.

BWW: Seven days?

LL: You didn’t know that? Yes, seven days.

BWW: I know a lot of the cast members have had experience in other productions of “A Chorus Line.” So that’s got to help.

LL: I think it helps. But it’s such a monster of a show. The timing, the blocking, the lighting for the show is so involving. I was very proud of us, I must say.

BWW: One of the notes I actually made last night was about how fluid the staging was. The transitions, the lighting cues – it really was polished and very well done.

LL: I think that’s a tribute to several people. You’ve got to give the proper respect to Luis Villabon whose intensive knowledge of the book and the show really serve the company. And also (Executive Artistic Director) Brad Kenney for really putting the right people together. Brad was involved in all of the casting every single step of the process. I think he found a truly unique cast. We all get along. We’re all having a good time although it’s a crazy intensive week. We all support each other. And not being a dancer, I stepped into the role with some apprehension because Zach has to have the respect of the dancers. He’s like a drill sergeant. To come from a non dancing background and to rehearse this last week with these kids that have so much experience, I was a bit intimidated at first. But they really gave me the support that I needed to believe in my own abilities as a leader, and that was my main focus – to come across as their leader, as their boss. And my age helped, I’ll be honest with you. These kids are half my age, so a lot of my maturity came into play in establishing a hierarchy.

BWW: I wonder, too – it occurred to me that – you look like a dancer. I think part of that must be your martial arts training. Do you feel that that helped you in any way to have an instinctual appreciation for what the dancers do?

LL: Absolutely. I absolutely believe that the martial arts have given me a good understanding of my own center of gravity and where my movement comes from. Basically all movement comes from the hips. So if you’re on top of your hips, you’re going to be able to move around. You’ve got to stand up straight, put your shoulders back, fill yourself up with a sense of your balance and your natural stance. I think that is a common denominator that maybe helped me with some of the movement that I have to do. Sure.

BWW: And even beyond that to appreciate the movement of what the dancers are doing.

LL: These dancers are all black belts in my book. They have achieved such a command of their physical beings that they’re no less than experts in movement. I respect that tremendously, because I know how hard they all worked to get to the point where they can perform to this level. I worked very hard to get my black belt and I know that it doesn’t go without a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

BWW: So these kids are actually living the lives that they are portraying on stage. It was their truth they were telling.

LL: You have some exceptional standouts. Nadine (Isenegger) and Katie (Cameron), the actresses that play Cassie and Shiela. Nadine IseneggerAnd Diana (Christine LaDuca) and Thay (Floyd), the guy who plays Richie, the “give me the ball” character. They’re true triple threats. They can do it all. They can act, they can sing, they can dance. I’m so enthusiastic about the future of American musical theater because this is the next generation of folks that are going to be putting on these shows for audiences to enjoy for years to come. I’m just proud of them and I’m grateful to them for their commitment to this particular kind of art form.

BWW: I’m guessing that you’re going to be doing more of this.

LL: Oh, sure. One of my senseis told me years ago that life isn’t worth living if you don’t scare yourself once in a while. (Laughs) This is the way I scare myself. I accept a role like this with all the challenges and I just bite into it and go for it.

BWW: Any other roles that come to mind that you’d like to go for?

LL: Well, I’d love to do (Billy Flynn in) Chicago. I’d love to do (Sky in) Guys and Dolls. And there are also shows that I loved as movies. Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are phenomenal – South Pacific, King and I, Sound of Music – any one of those would be great.

BWW: You’d go back to do “The King and I” again, wouldn’t you?

LL: I probably would, but I hesitate now because it took me two years to grow my hair out! I’m not sure I’d want to shave it again. (Laughs)

BWW: Will you be going back to New York, to Feinstein’s or perhaps the Metropolitan Room, to do your cabaret anytime soon?

LL: Possibly. I may be doing (a club I can’t go public with yet). We’re not signed, sealed and delivered. But I’d like to do that. That would be fun. I am doing my cabaret in LA at the Catalina Room July 21 and 22. And I’m starting a reality show with my oldest daughter Shayne for the E! Channel. We begin filming that July 6.

BWW: What’s the show going to be about?

LL: The show’s called The Lamas Family and it’s about my daughter and her sister struggling in Hollywood to forge careers. My daughter wants to be an actress and her sister Dakota wants to be a singer. The show’s going to follow them around during their audition process and also go out with them at night to the clubs in Hollywood and see that part of what LA is all about in terms of the nightclub scene. I’m going to be on the show as her Dad, kind of as the sounding board for her ideas. I’m also very fortunate to be able to use the show as a platform to promote my own company. I have a motorcycle company I just started with a builder in Arizona, Ralph Randolph, and I’m very excited about our debut at Sturgis. We’re going to the bike rally in August and I am going to be unveiling four of my custom motorcycle models there. The show for me is a chance to promote my company. Kind of what Discovery did for Orange County Choppers on that show American Chopper.

BWW: So will you be riding around on one of your custom models at different times during the show?

LL: Oh, yeah, many times. The show’s also going to follow me. They’re going to tape me singing at my cabaret. There are a lot of different things the show will do – basically follow my daughter and me around in our lives. A Chorus Line EnsembleIf they were shooting now they’d be here shooting this. It would have been great but they were not going to start production till July. I’ll be finished A Chorus Line by then.

A Chorus Line continues at the Ogunquit Playhouse, Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine, through June 13. Evening performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Matinees are Wednesday and Thursday at 2:30 p.m., Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are priced from $43 to $54 and are available by calling the box office at 207-646-5511 or visiting http://www.ogunquitplayhouse.org/.

PHOTO: Lorenzo Lamas

PRODUCTION PHOTOS BY JAY GOLDSMITH: Felipe Quillin as Paul with the company of A Chorus Line; Nadine Isenegger as Cassie; the company of A Chorus Line



In and Around Boston: Rainbows, Recluses and Romance

The Boston area offers an interesting assortment this weekend as local favorite Kathy St. George takes to the Stoneham Theatre stage in the guise of the legendary Judy Garland (June 4-28), while two excellent productions – "Grey Gardens" at the Lyric Stage and "Romance" at the American Repertory Theatre – end their limited runs on Sunday.

“Dear Miss Garland”

According to press notes, Kathy St. George fell in love with Judy Garland as a child watching The Wizard of Oz. She has had a fascination with her ever since. Kathy St. George as Judy GarlandHer one-woman musical Dear Miss Garland, receiving its world premiere at the Stoneham Theatre this month, is St. George’s “love letter” to the iconic star. The show includes both poignant and hilarious stories from Garland’s life and career as well as the songs that she made famous in movies and on the concert stage.

St. George – who at four foot eleven is the exact same height as Garland – traces the incomparable singer’s life from her stage debut as one of the Gumm Sisters to her comeback concert at Carnegie Hall in 1961. Between anecdotes she sings such classic hits as “The Trolley Song,” “A Star Is Born,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Get Happy,” “Chicago,” and the all-time favorite, “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” A performer who has been “doing Judy” by request at cabaret shows and benefits for several years, St. George decided to pay a worthy tribute to her role model in a fully scripted and produced musical complete with sets, lights, choreography, costumes, and a seven-piece band.

Tickets for Dear Miss Garland may be purchased at the Stoneham Theatre box office by calling 781-279-2200 or visiting http://www.stonehamtheatre.org/. Price is $40, with discounts available for students and seniors.

PHOTO: Kathy St. George as Judy Garland

“Grey Gardens”

Local stage stalwart Leigh Barrett is giving yet another finely etched performance – two of them, actually – in the Doug Wright, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie musical Grey Gardens now playing its final week at the Lyric Stage in Boston. deLima and BarrettBased on the stranger-than-fiction story of two of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ eccentric relatives – Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter “Little” Edie Beale – Grey Gardens depicts this decidedly odd couple’s descent from 1940s East Hampton society to a life of destitution, isolation and inconceivable squalor as they share a dilapidated summer mansion with dozens of cats, raccoons, fleas, and their own twisted memories.

In Act I, Barrett plays mother Big Edie Beale, the frustrated wife of a never-home Wall Street tycoon who tries at every turn to stifle her passion for music and her bohemian ways. Self-absorbed to the point of narcissism, Big Edie wants nothing more than to sing on the stage. Unable to fulfill her career dream, she seizes any social opportunity to take the spotlight – even if it means ruining her own daughter’s (Aimee Doherty) engagement party. When faced with the very real possibility of being left alone following Little Edie’s planned wedding to Joe Kennedy Jr., Big Edie sabotages her daughter’s future and seals their dysfunctional, co-dependent fate. In Act II, we see the mind-boggling result of their 32-year retreat from the outside world.

Amidst broken plumbing, collapsed ceilings and walls, feline fecal filth, and years of uncollected trash, the elderly Big Edie – now played by Sarah deLima – and the middle aged Little Edie – Barrett once again – live in some kind of bizarre, delusional denial. They have a vague awareness that their situation is not the norm, but their obsessive reliving – and reinventing – the events of the past prevent them from seeing how truly desperate their conditions are. Their sense of self-importance lives on, even if their faded celebrity does not.

Barrett, Doherty and deLima all bring beautiful voices to Grey Gardens evocative score. Doherty’s tragic, almost schizophrenic “The Telegram,” Barrett’s comical “The Revolutionary Costume for Today,” as well as her mournful “Around the World” and “Another Winter in a Summer Town,” are but a few of the many musical highlights.Doherty and Barrett The women also nail the duo’s idiosyncratic speech patterns, contorted postures, and nervous mannerisms that are so evident in the famous Maysles brothers’ 1975 documentary of the same name. But while Barrett is both goofy and heartbreaking and deLima is alternately strident and sorrowful, it is Doherty who is the real revelation in this production. She is the one who as the neurotic young Little Edie lays the subtle psychological groundwork that enables the older Barrett to morph into the adult Little Edie who is unable to leave her mother no matter how hard she tries. Doherty’s is a performance of desperate hopes and smashed dreams. It is riveting in every detail.

Director Spiro Veloudos has guided his trio of leading ladies to be thoroughly believable as eerily similar mother and daughter (and mother and daughter). As one of the songs in the show is titled, the three are like “Two Peas in a Pod.” Veloudos has also led his well-cast ensemble – which includes a fine Will McGarrahan as Big Edie’s sullen live-in accompanist Gould and a versatile R. Patrick Ryan who appears first as the preppy Joe Kennedy Jr. then as the kindly high school student-handyman Jerry who befriends the recluses – to be both real and ethereal when the situations warrant. Music director Jonathan Goldberg has made his seven-piece orchestra sound much bigger, delivering composer Frankel’s moody dissonances, 1940s pastiches, and 1970s ballads with haunting personality. Costume designer Charles Schoonmaker has also splendidly captured the elegance of the Beale’s earlier days as well as the oddness of their later years – although second act fabrics could show a bit more wear and tear and a few soil spots given the squalid conditions in which his characters are living.

Only the set by Cristina Todesco disappoints, primarily due to the very small space with which she has to work. I suppose if I hadn’t seen the original Broadway production, I wouldn’t know what I was missing. But in New York the set created as much of an impact as the performances, stunning the audience when it transformed from a grandly appointed, summer breeze-swept, pristine ivory-painted mansion into a looming mountain of waste and decay, crawling with images of meowing cats projected onto mildew stained and collapsing walls.

At the Lyric, rough-hewn slats suspended above and behind the playing area suggest the hidden lath work that becomes exposed over time. In Act II just a few small piles of assorted trash make do for the years of newspapers and cat food cans that in fact littered the floors and halls of the withered estate. But without a sense of the enormity of the squalor, the shocking oppressiveness that makes the Beales sympathetic as well as curious is missing. The Beales’ incessant bickering thus becomes a tad too irritating when not played out against a monstrously claustrophobic visual context.

It is to the credit of deLima, and Barrett especially, that their Edith and Edie remain fascinating characters despite the disquieting nature of Grey Gardens. Their and Doherty’s remarkably true performances put a bright sheen on this most unusual subject matter.

Tickets to Grey Gardens are available at the Lyric Stage box office by calling 617-585-5678 or on line at http://www.lyricstage.com/.

PHOTOS BY MARK S. HOWARD: Sarah deLima as Big Edie Beale, Leigh Barrett as Little Edie Beale; Aimee Doherty as Little Edie Beale, Leigh Barrett as Big Edie Beale


Can chiropractic save the world?

Will LeBowThis is the absurd question posed in David Mamet’s preposterously funny legal farce Romance now in its final week at the American Repertory Theater (ART) in Cambridge. As a Middle East Peace Conference convenes in Washington DC, a Jewish chiropractor (Remo Airaldi) and his anti-Semitic fundamentalist Christian defense attorney (Jim True-Frost) stumble upon the notion that – after attacking each other with scathing epithets in a capital courtroom – a simple realignment of the warring leaders’ spines should be able to restore their inner harmony and bring about lasting peace.

Wouldn’t it be great if that were true!

Instead the madcap denizens of Mamet’s bizarre juror-free courtroom can barely keep themselves from killing each other as they duke it out over religion, homosexuality, infidelity, and the medical profession. “How can you have peace in the Middle East if you can’t have peace at home?” a spurned lover cries. Indeed. That one small voice of reason amidst all the ridiculous mayhem seems to be the point lurking beneath the side-splitting laughs.

Ace performances are turned in by every member of the ensemble, executing Scott Zigler’s inspired direction with crack comic timing and grand exaggerated style. But the prize for creating the most flat-out hilarious robed (and at times disrobed) Romance Castbuffoon ever to preside over a court of law goes hands down to the magnificent Will LeBow. Vacillating between narcolepsy and drug induced manic psychosis, the allergy-suffering, pill-popping magistrate bounces absent-mindedly from speculating on the difference between a chiropractor and a chiropodist to trying to decide whether or not Shakespeare was a Jew. When his until-now silent bailiff (Jim Senti) deadpans, “I know Shakespeare was a fag,” LeBow’s bewildered double take is pure genius.

A seemingly extraneous subplot that ends up reinserting itself into the frenzy amusingly toward the end of Romance is one involving the love affair between the prosecutor (Thomas Derrah) and Bernard (Carl Foreman), affectionately known as Bunny. At one point the judge intercepts a note written to the prosecutor, which happens to be signed, “Bunny.” LeBow, confused and irritated from the effects of his antihistamine overdose, shouts in frustration, “Rabbits can’t write!”

Such is the humor that is rife in Romance. This is definitely not the David Mamet of Glengarry Glen Ross or American Buffalo!

Romance continues at the ART in Cambridge through June 7. Tickets are available by calling 617-547-8300 or on line at www.americanrepertorytheater.org.

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL LUTCH: Will LeBow as the Judge; Remo Airaldi as the Defendant, Jim Senti as the Bailiff and Jim True-Frost as the Defense Attorney



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