Open wide, here we COME! Jason Kendall’s The Dentist or Be Careful What You Put in Your Mouth is a 90-minute farce that takes place in a Time when Things were Simpler. Simpler they are not—at least not in this tangled web, which plays out in a frenzy of passion, jealousy and trickery. The show opens with Pantalone (Kenny Marshall), a wealthy blowhard who dons a Burberry’s hat, professing his desire to wed the flighty young Isabella (Catherine Munden), who unfortunately is in love with Pantalone’s son Oratio (Brian Whisenant). The mad Pantalone threatens to ship his son away to college, and in a fit sinks his tiny teeth into the arm of his servant Pedrolino (Jeffrey Landman). Desperate for revenge on his master, Pedrolino conceives a diabolical scheme to immobilize Pantalone by sending him to a false Dentist (David M. Zuber) who shops for tools at a toy store.
Confused yet? It’s inevitable. Every character is infatuated with another, deals are made and broken, and magic licorice is thrown in for good measure. Farce is a difficult genre to pull off successfully, requiring impeccable timing, fast pacing, and deadpan seriousness in the characters. Fortunately, this cast is well on its way. Most notable is Munden, who prances across the stage tossing rose petals, while Whisenant is a delightfully over-the-top (and Alan Cumming-lookalike) romantic. Holly Pitrago, as Franchesina, the scantily clad maid, widens her eyes and giggles endearingly while speaking volumes of wisdom. Landman’s hyperactive physicality also deserves praise.
While the setting is purposely left vague, it is also inconsistent. The flamboyant Captain Spavento (Jacob Zahniser) with tumbling curls looks like a Renaissance Festival escapee, while the oversexed Flaminia (Julie Sutton) fondles her micro-mini denim shorts. References to Enron, J. Lo and the Backstreet Boys are tossed around, yet they fall uncomfortably in a show that clearly takes place long ago. There are several mini-logues that address the audience directly, which turns the farce into an obvious joke. The Dentist works hard, and at moments the struggle is clear, but in the end the humor shines through.