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Cracked Up!

Sunday 19 February 2012

OSF generally produces what I call the “family crowd pleaser” each year. This is that big show, usually in the Bowmer, that is like Disneyland-as-theater–something for everyone, so Grandma can stay with Junior and everyone can have a good time.

This year, that proposition has been split. The White Snake is definitely part of this, the Velma/Mary Anne of the productions so far, as it has the most child-friendly action and humor. Animal Crackers is the second half, the older cousin who likes to put firecrackers on your birthday cake in place of candles. The humor is more physical, more bawdy, and definitely more fun if you’re old enough to have seen the Marx Brothers film of the same name.

What’s amazing about this production is the extent to which the cast successfully reproduces a Marx Brothers-like rendition of the theater-version of this show. The Marx Brothers are a hard act to follow; Bedard, Tufts, Hinkley, and Lopez do a remarkable job of filling their shoes, supported by a cast that covers something like 35 separate roles with a total of 10 cast members. By the end, even the dressers have run out of steam.

The point of this show is not the jokes themselves, which were novel in the 1930s but now have a lot of groaners in them. What’s incredible to watch is the unlimited energy that the cast and crew throw into this performance; it’s like they took James Newcomb’s Richard III, cloned him three or four ways, and then fed them all triple espressos.

It’s a really fun show; highly recommended for all audiences. We’ll be going back at least a few times.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Animal CrackersAngus Bowmer Theatre, now through November 4th.

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