|Jason Weed, Sarah Ominski, Kraig Williams, Erin Bickler, Adam Caniparoli, and Essie Bertain. |
Photo by Ammon Riley.
By Tina Arth
Fans of broad farce will absolutely love Beaverton Civic Theatre’s 2016 holiday offering, Sorry! Wrong Chimney. Director Meghan Daaboul has assembled a team of uninhibited comics willing to figuratively and literally let it all hang out in search of laughs, and the payoff is a cascade of slapstick merriment.
The story is set entirely in the living room of newlyweds Samantha and David’s big-city apartment. Samantha feels neglected – David is rarely home, and even when he’s there he’s too exhausted for much loving. What she doesn’t know is that he is moonlighting as a department store Santa to pay for a special Christmas present for his bride. Neighbor Natalie is full of sympathy, since her psychiatrist husband Bill is no more attentive. Enter the much-feared Santa Claus Bandit, Kris (it seems that nobody locks their doors in this city). After innumerable chases, entrances, and exits by the entire cast, including Kris’ girlfriend Sheila and an intrepid policeman, Bill’s somewhat imprecise hypnotherapy skills help to restore a semblance of order.
Both Samantha (Essie Bertain) and David (Adam Caniparoli) fill ingénue roles, so their performances are (relatively) subdued – but in this production “relatively subdued” still leaves a lot of room for sudden pratfalls (or whatever you call it when a pretty young woman throws herself atop a blanket-clad neighbor to deceive her husband and his wife) and other physical comedy – and Bertain and Caniparoli make the most of these moments. Bill (Kraig Williams) has a slightly supercilious manner that contrasts nicely with his inept therapeutic skills, and Erin Bickler’s strong, consistent New York accent helps to establish a sense of locale while making every line just that extra bit funnier. The third couple (Kris and Sheila, played by Jason Weed and Sarah Ominski) is very different – I would call them stereotypical working class, but in order to attain that status at least one has to have a job title more elevated than bumbling burglar. Weed uses his rather immense size to create a pathetically unthreatening and hapless bandit, and Ominski simply rocks the bright red wig and too-too tacky dress during an alarmingly chaste seduction scene.
The real standout performance for me is Benjamin Philip as the policeman, even though he spends much of the show in a trancelike state, victimized repeatedly by Bill’s awkward hypnosis. Philip the policeman is fine, but Philip the birthday stripper is a shining jewel who must be seen to be believed, and his third act contortions by themselves are worth the whole price of admission.
Sorry! Wrong Chimney fills a critical niche in a busy holiday schedule – pure comic relief, with no more expectations laid on the audience than that they sit back and laugh. The opening night audience had no trouble fulfilling this job description, and I am sure future audiences will also be up to the challenge.
Beaverton Civic Theatre’s Sorry! Wrong Chimney runs through Saturday, December 17th at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. December 11th.