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June 21, 1996 - Image 86

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-06-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

'The Harmony Codes'

'Second City: Slipped A Discus'

D ETROIT JEWIS H NE WS

PHOTO BY R. I.. TOPPER

I f seeing is believing, then Mar-
Anthony Caselli, the director,
garet
garet Lancaster of Harmony, has a darn good time with this
Ind., has definitely encountered one. He has theatrical virtual re-
aliens. It all happened one ality up his sleeve and gets sen-
summer evening while squatting sational performances from the
in her back yard, waylaying a entire crew, keeping the whirligig
tryst between her teen-age daugh- action constant and clear as a bell.
Caselli has the advantage of a
ter, Patti, and Lowell, your
swell set by Daniel C.
usual teen-age lout with a
nose ring.
Walker, which utilizes
parts of the theater one
Armed with only a
hadn't imagined possi-
flashlight, Margaret is ac-
ble.. Joe Jenkins' sound
costed by two aliens —
design is wonderful,
more alike than unlike —
right down to the TV
though clearly of different
theme music and the
gender. Both are blonde
MI CHAEL H.
chortling of crickets on
with hair that seems to be
M ARGOLIN
a summer's night. Cos-
screaming; far from
SPEC IAL TO THE
tumes by Christina M.
threatening, they are
JEW ISH NEWS
Foster and lighting de-
daffy. They must be
sign by Reid G. John-
Calvin Klein models in a
son are up to snuff— way up.
parallel universe.
And here is that once-in-a-while
Now, here's the thing about The
Harmony Codes, Michael Grady's creature: a perfect cast. Sandra
hilarious play now running Birch is top-notch as the put-upon,
through July 28 at the Purple yet optimistic, Margaret. Jim
Rose Theatre: 43-year-old Mar- Porterfield plays her beleaguered
garet and the audience can see the spouse with aplomb and, in Act
aliens. Nobody else can.
The other characters
are Margaret's spouse,
Hoyt Lancaster, lover of
beer and ESPN; the
aforementioned offspring
Patti; Z, a fanatic believ-
er in paranoid fantasies;
an FBI agent who can't
even dial his own office
number correctly, and
Lyle, a cop who is two
parts Don Knotts and a
slapdash of good ol' boy.
So what happens
when Margaret tells
everyone about aliens
who have come in search
of the "codes of human
existence"? The media, Aliens (Wayne David Parker and Kate Peckham)
the FBI, her boss and the pose as milkmen and torment an Indiana
neighbors laugh at her, housewife (Sandra Birch).
call her crazy, fire her, treat her
as an outcast or use her for talk- II, great dignity. The two aliens,
the ubiquitous Wayne David
show fodder.
Parker and Kate Peckham,
Michael Grady has a
are deadpan-hilarious.
deft way with a line:
THEATER
John Hawkinson as Z,
Therefore aliens, in return
who faces dissection by
for information, cannot
aliens with fearlessness ap-
promise "larger sexual organs or
beefjerky." And since the aliens proaching rapture — "I'm a night
live 10,000 years, "even one of my clerk in a convenience store; it
lifetimes is like microwaving a cin- would be a step up for me" — is so
namon roll to one of them," says engagingly loony that he makes
Margaret. The FBI agent suggests being of sound mind and body
Margaret's husband is having an seem substandard.
The rest of the impeccable cast
affair to goad her into joining the
includes Jeffrey Nash, and Dan
alien tattle-tale club.
Well, it all comes out right in Brinkle and Tricia Smith, both of
the end — the aliens are forced whom double up in featured and
into submission by a vacation slide character roles. And the rest of us
show, and Margaret's mid-life cri- just double-up with laughter.
sis comes to an end, too, as does
the play, when menopause begins.

® c)

econd City's Slipped a Discus incoherent, fun-
seems to be at its best with a nier. As the feck-
Motown trio of two teens and less employees,
a transvestite mom, a "Can Grant Krause,
Quit Smoking" song accompanied Kim Greene and
by guitar, a hilarious quartet of Dionna Griffin
oldsters outdoing each other in take a page out of
'We Got the Cancer" and the fi- Forrest Gump's
little manual and
nal, funny, funky send-up.
This is not to say that the tal- make chocolates
ented cast members aren't funny out of the big
with the "unsung" word. Oh, they boys.
If the first half
are, especially in two outstand-
seems to rely on
ing pieces of inventive satire.
At the end of Act I, Larry retreads of comic
Campbell, who was very funny in points made in
the Attic's Twelfth Night earlier previous produc-
this season, plays teacher to five tions, especially
clueless students who comprise Detroit jokes and
the class from hell. This teacher racial stereo-
has taken a lesson from real life: types, there are
It's called "handguns rule," and neat moments
the results, when applied by a including a piece
teacher near the end of his teth- about two broth-
ers playing on op-
er, are painfully funny.
Joshua Funk, Larry Campbell and Rico Bruce Wade of
Taking frustration to the posing hockey Second City perform in the "Obligatory Company Meeting"
breaking point also brings out the teams, meeting in sketch.
manic funniness in Act ifs "Oblig- the penalty box
atory Company Meeting," in and catching up
actors and their original improv-
on family life, and a comedy but less rigor in casting
which Campbell, Joshua
wicked little snippet off extraneous material which
Funk and the funny, sexy
THEATER
about the Internet Chat- goes on after a skit peaks. (The
Rico Bruce Wade play cor-
line.
porate consultant/VP types
stuck-elevator-action-thriller
The second half gets sharper scene is just perfect and perfect-
trying, in vain, to explain redun-
and more clever, delivering vari- ly directed but, oddly, not funny
dancy to the excess employees.
Creative use of an overhead ations on the running gag of a enough.) Trey Stone provides the
projector, the involvement of one man in a wheelchair (which re- Motown and funk sound expert-
or two audience volunteers, and minded me of Ruth Buzzi and ly from his keyboard.
the idea that impassive resistance Arte Johnson as two maligned
Discus slips nicely into Second
may be the only answer to down- oldsters on "Laugh-In") and a sec- City, where it plays through Au-
sizing attempts add up to some ond chance to hear Grant gust.
very funny moments. As the con- Krause's deliciously deadpan Bob
sultant guys get deeper into Dole impression.
Director John Hildreth has
metaphor for layoff, the overhead
screen images get denser, more shown a neat sense of casting his
— Michael H. Margolin

S

® ct
,

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