nytheatre.com review by Terri Galvin
Imagine if FringeNYC shows were listed in the
personals. "Uproarious, but exceedingly articulate comedy seeks audience
who appreciates all things literary, theatrical, and farcical.
Well-tuned literary sensibility a plus, but not essential to enjoy the
'eccentricities of genius' which abound. You: a fan of brilliant
writing, extraordinary acting, and impeccable staging. Me: an
irresistible gambol combining 19th-century literary allusions with broad
physical comedy and cheeky social satire. Let's have 'the best of
times,' not the 'worst of times' together."
August 15, 2003
What a package! And where is this little gem listed? Well, since this is TOSOS II Theatre Company, under: "Men Seeking Women," "Women Seeking Men," "Men Seeking Men," and "Women Seeking Women." Of course.
Are you swooning yet? If so, then book a date with the dazzling Penny Penniworth. Chris Weikel's thoroughly original tale is a parody of such exquisite detail that one must check the program to ensure it isn't an actual Dickens adaptation. Through thwarted romance, descent into penury (the family manor is descending too—into a bog), and melodramatic reversals of fortune, Penny's eponymous plight gleefully exploits every novelistic convention while featuring an assortment of vivid characters whose names alone prompt giggles. The poor but honorable Hochkiss Spit, the corpse-obsessed Miss Havasnort, and the hunch-backed cockney Malodorous Dump are but a few.
Now add TOSOS' own unique touch: naughty double entendres that Mr. D. would have blushed to pen, impish inside jokes that generously include the audience in the winking-and-nudging, and a thoroughly modern approach to gender role reversal that never seems anachronistic.
The cast of four impressively delineates each character only by their outstanding command of accents and physicalities, and their glittering comic timing makes the most of the many sly puns and arch references. Structuring it all is Mark's Finley's pitch-perfect staging, modulating the mayhem from the subtlest aside to the most blatantly roguish sight-gag.
All in all, this production is a rare and vigorous example of why we still need live theatre in this MTV age. It's no discredit to Weikel's script that a celluloid version would never be as transporting as the vital, three-dimensional miracle this production conjures. It's beyond literal, it's theatrical—in the purest, most "literal" sense of the term.
Hmm… all this and a sense of humor too. No wonder I'm in love.