BWW Review: The Actors' Gang's Regaling Political Commentary CAPTAIN GREEDY'S CARNIVAL Hits Home
CAPTAIN GREEDY'S CARNIVAL/by Jack Pinter/music by Roger Eno/directed by Will Thomas McFadden/The Actors' Gang/thru November 11, 2017
If you like your entertainment sprinkled with a generous dose of politics, The Actors' Gang's world premiere of Jack Pinter's CAPTAIN GREEDY'S CARNIVAL will definitely be right up your alley. Set in the 1930s, during the heyday of traveling carnival sideshows, Pinter uses the carney swindling Captain Greedy's Carnival as a direct analogy to the ensnaring market crash of 2008, as well as, the present day political arena. Through various diverting slights of hand, Captain Greedy and his motley crew easily fleece a gullible family into mortgaging their property in a lose-lose situation - for them.
Will Thomas McFadden firmly directs his large talented, committed cast at a fast, steady pace, while also fully embodying the central role of Captain Greedy. The charismatic McFadden charms and totally commands the stage as an effective ringmaster should, nicely adding juggling tricks (in the opening "Captain Greedy's Carnival") and the unexpected, but most appreciated, tapdancing (in Lindsay Kerr's wonderfully choreographed "Richer Get Richer").
Bob Turton undoubtedly matches McFadden with his own commanding stage presence and energetic, laugh-inducing interpretations of Captain Greedy's right-hand man Talker (beginning with his rousing pre-show carnival barking), a headless commercial real estate expert Fakir and free-market authority puppet (an actual puppet) Professor Freemarket (in "That's How Business Works").
Fakir's lovely assistants Rough and Tumble receive delightful kewpie-doll characterizations from Paulette Zubata and Dora Kiss.
Both Adam Bennett and Mary Eileen O'Donnell work comic wonders with their respective multiple roles, each exposing more than expected. (Wink! Wink!) Bennett's perfectly vanilla swarmy as the preacher Reverend Profit, robotically short-circuited as brainiac Homo Economicus, and purposely unconvincing as the disingenuous Sir Panacea. O'Donnell seizes her opportunity to grab the spotlight with her sultry vocals and comic burlesque as Madame Mammon in "Tax Haven." She floats through the stage with an air of ominous reckoning as the soothsayer Madame Roubini. And, as Lord Chief Justice Insobriety, O'Donnell makes maximum mockery of justice in the trial of the villagers vs. Captain Greedy.
Portraying the easy marks of Captain Greedy's troupe - Chris Bisbano as Dad, Lynde Houck as Mom, Ethan Corn as Junior and Zoë Hall as his Girlfriend - all adeptly play up their gullibility with only Girlfriend offering up any resistance to Captain Greedy's lines of doubletalk. Corn and Hall perform a lounge version song-and-dance in "Money Talks" in their feeble attempt to align their support with the more volatile demonstrations of the anti-Carnival protesters. Bisbano displays his strong deep voice and guitar-playing expertise as his Dad laments his sorry plight in "Diggin' My Own Grave."
Others in this hard-working ensemble giving sturdy support include: Austin Brown, Christie Harms, Chas Harvey, Zivko Petkovic, Emily Reas, Bronwyn Watson and Cady Zuckerman.
Love the transparency of all the carnival fakery -the rigged prize wheel spinning, the feigning knife-throwing, the simulated sword spearing, the shell game switcheroo.
Solid musical backup from Pedro Shanahan on bass, Geoffrey Pope on keyboards, and Keith Roenke on percussion.
Wonderful use of projection designer Cihan Sahin's most complementary videos, especially the rollercoaster ride in "The Crash" and the scrolling brand logos in "Shop More." Kudos also to costumer designer Harms for her hodgepodge of distinctive carnival attire.
A little judicious editing of this two-act, two-and-a-half-hour musical would make for an even stronger, streamlined message piece.