The British Players Mother GooseBy Betsy Marks Delaney • Dec 9th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
The British Players
Kensington Town Hall, Kensington, MD
Through December 13th
Reviewed December 4th, 2009
Mother Goose (written and directed by Danny Brogan) is British Players’ hugely entertaining traditional British, now playing at the Kensington Town Hall in Kensington, Maryland. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing a real British “Panto,” there’s never been a better time. You’ll have to forgive me because I didn’t take a lot of notes on this production. I was too busy laughing, cheering, booing and hissing (at the appropriate moments, of course) along with the rest of the audience.
British Pantomime is a theatre convention unto itself. There is always a Dame (a man dressed as a woman), a “Principal Boy” (a hero, always played by a girl), at least one villian you can boo or hiss off stage, and plenty of opportunity to sing along with the rest of the cast. The last one I saw was over 20 years ago in London, and I can attest to the authenticity of the British Players’ production. Ask anyone who’s seen both and they’ll likely tell you the same.
Some plays acknowledge the fourth wall. The Panto gleefully demolishes it and hauls the audience into the action (quite literally) throughout the show. Mother Goose is no exception.
In this version, Mother Goose is the put-upon widow who must pay the rent or be evicted, played hilariously over the top by Malcolm Edwards. Robin (Susan Dye) is our knee-slapping hero(ine), in love with Mother G.’s daughter Sally (Mallory Shear). Jack (Albert Coia) is Sally’s dim but great-hearted brother (of “Jack and Jill” fame, rather than “Jack, the Giant Killer”). The aggressively good Good Fairywell (Sue Edwards) rounds out the “good guy” side of the cast. The bad guys include infinitely booable evildoers King Lord Thorgar (David Berkenbilt) and Queen Laxlove (Stephanie Phelan Offutt), who plot to turn the entire village of Tippetywitchet to greed, and the hissingly mean Village Squire (Brandon Brylawski), with his two daffy henchmen, Chips (Lyle Jaffe) and the surprisingly elastic Fish (Maggie Repp).
Crossing the line between bad and good, we have Priscilla (Jessica Wesley), the sweet goose-gone-bad who lays golden eggs and the assorted chorus of Minions, Ghouls, Villagers, Courtiers, Fairies, Goblins and Demented Woodsman, played by an ensemble chorus of fourteen.
And sing they do! Robin, Sally, Fish, Queen Laxlove and the Village Squire all have especially impressive voices, but the whole cast is more than capable of carrying the tunes. The songs are accompanied simply but beautifully by a single pianist (Addie Edelson, for the performance I saw).
J. Andrew Simmons and Anna Britton have done a bang-up job on the set design. Mary Rigney‘s costumes, Joan Rosebloom‘s makeup and Don Slater‘s lighting all help contribute to the overall quality of this production.
This isn’t deep, meaningful theatre, but who cares? If you have any appreciation at all for Monty Python-esque humor and want to watch a bunch of folks having a great time entertaining you, Mother Goose is a great way to ring in the holidays, British style. Even the youngest audience members will have a great time. I spent the evening sitting next to a not-quite two-year-old who started out shy. By the end she was just as enchanted by the show as my own kids. You can feel perfectly comfortable with bringing the whole family! I can say without any reservations whatsoever: If you have the time to see it this season, go!
It’s not to be missed. Trust me. If you see the show you won’t regret one minute of it! You heard it here first…
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Betsy Marks Delaney is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.