Monday, November 5, 2007

Autumnal Droppings, Part II

I had hoped to start the weekend off by catching the "Naked Cabaret" performance at the Warehouse, but their final shows were unexpectedly cancelled. I was greatly disappointed to miss it, as I'm sure Steve Cupo and his gang were putting on a good show (fully dressed, the title refers to emotional nudity).

Saturday night, I caught the wonderfully wacky Ray Ficca in "The Jungle Book" at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. The story is familiar to anyone who grew up in the sixties, since the Disney cartoon was a classic. (Nobody actually reads Kipling anymore, do they?) This version was a more academic, less overly comical approach, and even livewire Ray, as the villainous tiger Shere Khan, was more subdued than in other, more comic pieces. I appreciated the fact that director Kate Bryer chose a costuming concept which allowed the actors to be seen, rather than be hidden by Animal Wear. The house was full to the brim with kids and parents, who eagerly joined in the audience participatory moments in the piece.

Sunday afternoon I made the schlep out to Front Royal, VA, to catch the world premiere offered by Wayside Theatre in their temporary home: "Shadow of the Raven: The Stories of Edgar Allen Poe." This new piece is very much a hybrid, with lots of laughs and even a puppet show which goes terribly wrong (Punch decapitates Judy). It also aims for some frights, turning a bit Gothic in Act II. The action throughout is interspersed with music and song, the whole thing springing from one of Wayside's longtime artistes, Steve Przybylski (I wouldn't venture to pronounce that last name without coaching). I'm not qualified to judge music, but I particularly enjoyed the goofy round-robin among the characters, as they each sang Poe's poem "Annabel Lee" to the tune of a different popular song. I also enjoyed the presence of the writer / composer himself onstage, dressed as Harpo Marx and occasionally insinuating himself into the action. The whole piece is held together by the solid performance of my buddy Larry Dalke, ably supported by Vaughn Irving, both of whom I worked with in "Black Coffee" a year ago. Vaughn enthusiastically made the most of what is largely a reactive role. (And his Punch-and-Judy Snuff Puppet Show is pretty funny.)

I've already written about the temporary digs the Wayside folks have fashioned out of an industrial building, and I was impressed again by the roominess and the landscaped charm of the place. I just hope their audiences follow them to Front Royal...