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BWW Review: THE EXPLORERS CLUB Discovers Laughs a Plenty


THE EXPLORERS CLUB: The place to discover eternal lettuce, the East pole and belly laughs.

The final production for Delaware Theatre Company's blockbuster 2015-16 season is how all theater companies hope to end a season - on top of their game and with money in their pockets. Bud Martin, the company's Executive Director, stood in front of the opening night audience with sheer delight in his eyes to announce that DTC was nearing $1,000,000.00 in ticket sales for the season. Way to go, DTC! I am certain THE EXPLORERS CLUB will be the production to conclude Martin's long, hard expedition to reach the pinnacle of Delaware theatrical heights.

London, 1879 and The Explorers Club is in crisis: not only does the all-male club employ the world's worst (and now missing) bartender but, Acting President and smittened horticulturist, Lucius Fretway (Daniel Fredrick), wishes for female explorer and recent discoverer of the NaKong Tribe of the Lost City of Pahatlabong, Phyllida Spotte-Hume (Karen Peakes), to join, much to the disapproval of senior member, Professor Sloane (Dan Kern), an "archaeo-theologist" who professes of women, "Your science is adequate, but your sex is weak with sin and led astray with diverse lust," and theorizes that the lost tribes of Israel ended up in Ireland, while members Professor Walling (Brian McCann),a zoologist with an unordinary emotional attachment to a guinea pig, and Professor Cope (Matt Tallman), a herpetologist who proudly escorts his pet cobra, Rosie, around his neck, agree to meet the young lady.

Phyllida doesn't arrive at the club alone; she brings with her a member of the NaKong tribe, a young warrior whom she's named Luigi (because she names all her pets Luigi), a large silver spoon (which the NaKong identify as a God), and a few stories of the tribe's strange ways, including their greeting (a slap in the face) and a recipe for toad jerky (boiling it in urine until almost all of the poison is removed). In the midst of all this, club member Harry Percy (Harry Smith), the dashing adventurer and master of witty quips ("Girls get these little whims. That's why we call them women.") returns from expedition sans travel companions (because he notoriously loses them) to announce his next adventure - discover the elusive East Pole.

And, because we're in London, the Queen must be involved. For some odd reason, the Queen extended her hand to Luigi for a common greeting, which, in turn, gave Luigi (Dave Johnson) the opportunity to offer the Queen a tribal greeting, whereby England declared war on Pahatlabong. The Queen dispatches Sir Bernard Humphries (Paul L. Nolan) to The Explorers Club to arrest Luigi and secure Phyllida so that the crown may learn where to find the Lost City of Pahatlabong and level it.

The only bits missing are a Irish assassin and an explorer turned stealth-like, revenge seeking monk (Griffin Stanton-Ameisen). Oh, wait...they're here too.

THE EXPLORERS CLUB is a wonderful ensemble piece requiring all actors to act and react with feline nimbleness to each other, their surroundings and, especially when substitute bartender, Luigi, slings drinks. Each and every actor is top-notch. Harry Smith as the bombastic, semi-buffoonish Percy keeps you smiling and chuckling throughout. Just when you think he can't say anything more absurd, he does. With the complete club in chaos, Daniel Fredrick's underappreciated, level-headed Lucius compellingly forges ahead in search of victory for his Queen, his club and his heart. Ms. Peakes' plucky, courageous attitude plays extremely well in the midst of all the men. Who else but woman would have built an airship? The rapid fire, Gilbert & Sullivan-esque word play fills the topsey-turvey world of THE EXPLORERS CLUB with bawdy, laugh out loud fun.

Playwright Nell Benjamin, better known for co-writing the score to LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL, fills the script with frivolity enjoyable by all ages. Bud Martin's stage direction is energetically brisk. The period appropriate costumes (Wade Laboissonniere) stylishly compliment the luxurious, well-appointed set design (Alexis Distler) replicating a very British social club where men (and, only men) may enjoy brandy and cigars.

Escape to Delaware Theatre Company for an evening of adventurous merriment. Huzzah!


Written by Nell Benjamin

Directed by Bud Martin

Delaware Theater Company

200 Water Street

Wilmington, DE 19801

(302) 594-1100

Runs April 30 thru May 22

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From This Author Rosanne DellAversano