nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 10, 2007
Adapted from Bulgarian playwright Stanislav Stratiev's Sako Ot Veluer (The Suede Jacket), BAAAHHH!!! is the story of Ivan and his seriously ridiculous odyssey to clarify a bureaucratic error. When his barber refuses to help him make his unruly sheepskin jacket less hairy, he enlists a farmer to assist him with this aesthetic problem. The farmer acquiesces, but registers the jacket as a "private sheep" to adhere to the State's rules. Then the State informs Ivan that he must pay tax on his undeclared "sheep." Ivan sensibly refuses. What follows is an aggressive war of wills, pitting Ivan and his flock of close friends against the relentless bureaucrats who insist that Ivan's jacket is a sheep, and if not, then he is willfully hiding one to defraud the government that claims to serve him and his needs.
It's enough to make anyone throw up their hands in disgust with a "Baaahhh humbug" and pay the tax on the fictitious sheep. Ivan is determined to prove that his jacket is not a sheep, and happily actor Felipe Bonilla is more than up to undertaking Ivan's Herculean task. His confusion and exasperation evokes both sympathy and laughter as he goes toe to toe with the pompous and dry bureaucrat, masterfully played by Tom Hedlund. Other cast standouts amongst the fine ensemble include Michael Freeland as the Hanging Man and Maria Riboli as the passionately repressed Dermendzjieva, who bravely defies her boss to join Ivan and his friends on a seemingly fruitless quest through a maze of red tape and uncooperative government officials. Even as Ivan's own personal herd of friends fall along the wayside or give up, he is more than determined to stand up for what is right. At times the play feels a little long and a bit repetitive, but the actors succeed in holding the audience's attention.
Exceedingly reminiscent of the works of Vaclav Havel, this satire and outright parody of one man's fight against a heartless and unthinking state is impressive. It's adeptly adapted and directed by Stefano Genovese and Maria Riboli for DMS Productions. They do a commendable job of taking a difficult play and giving it a contemporary spin, all the while maintaining the magic and integrity of Stratiev's original.