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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12
Opening the Iron Curtain reveals tons of puns and laughs
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Opening the Iron Curtain reveals tons of puns and laughs

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Iron Curtain
The Village Theatre
Issaquah: through April 24
Everett: April 29-May 22


A confectionary kiss to the musical theater genre is having its world-premiere at The Village Theatre. Iron Curtain is so silly and funny that you might have sore jaws from smiling at the end. The writing team of Susan DiLallo (book), Stephen Weiner (music), and Peter Mills (lyrics) previously created the fun musical outing Once Upon A Time in New Jersey, which was mounted by Village a couple of years ago.

Iron Curtain is being billed as a 'commie-dy' which goes along with the huge amounts of puns you have to listen for during the show. Two such gems you can listen for are: 'Pâté of moose and squirrel,' and later, 'Don't bore us, Natasha.' However, there is a dizzying array of other cultural references, so many that it could take more than one outing to identify ones that fly by the ear at first hearing.

The story of the musical is that two down-on-their-luck musical writers (both Jewish, of course, but not Gay, as so many musical writers have been), Murray Finkel (Jared Michael Brown) and Howard Katz (Matt Wolfe), are desperate for a Broadway hit, like Damn Yankees. They answer a suspicious-sounding ad in the paper looking for musical writers and meet whiny but winning Yengeni Onanov (Nick DeSantis) and a gun-happy Sergei Schmearnov (John Dewar) and end up kidnapped and whisked to Russia to doctor a terrible musical called Oh Kostroma! (Oklahoma, anyone?).

While they are not sure if they are going to survive, they're sure that if they don't produce enough work, their demise will be much faster. In Moscow, Murray falls for a lovely Russian girl Masha Petrovna Haylukmikova (Danielle Barnum) - pronounced 'hey-look-meek-ovah' - who turns out to be a double agent. She's not just a regular agent (isn't everyone an agent?), but is also secretly a KGB agent.

They also have to deal with the theater director, Hildret Heinz (Bobby Kotula). Originally from Germany and with divided loyalties, she also wields a mean whip and an even meaner sexual passion for Howard. Howard worries about the girl he left behind, Shirley (Carolyn Magoon), who he's not sure he's in love with. This subplot is lovely because the two are no spring chickens, which is a nice touch. Shirley, in the meantime, goes looking for Howard, trying to figure out why he disappeared so suddenly.

The production values are (typically) great as Steve Tomkins directs this bouncy musical romp. The set design by Bill Forrester moves easily between Russian and the USA by means of giant cityscape cut-outs that swing in and out, easily identifying where they are. Costumes by Karen Ledger are exquisitely lush and colorful, including a Marilyn Monroe take-off moment and other over-the-top dance number costumes. Choreography by Kristin Culp is often convulsively funny. Music direction by R.J. Tancioco is top-notch, with a slightly larger orchestra than usual offering a big sound.

The cast is so good that each of them vies to scene-steal from everyone else. Ensemble actors Ellen McLean and Christine Nelson have deadpan standout moments, too. Wolfe and Brown make a great comic singing duo, sticking together through thick and thin. DeSantis gets to sing a love song to musicals, 'If Not For Musicals,' that is sheer theater love. Barnum makes a terrific debut to the Village stage with a part that displays her versatility. Kotula has been with the role since its inception as a developmental piece at Village, and there is no one better suited to play this outrageous caricature.

You'll laugh, you'll & laugh some more, you'll smile, you'll groan at the puns. It's a great way to spend a lovely evening. For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.

Discuss the play at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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