Review by Doug Iden of “The Addams Family”: Covedale Theatre
When you set your agenda for Trick or Treat, consider including “The Addams Family”, currently residing at the Covedale Theater. Originally conceived as a cartoon written by Charles Addams for the New Yorker Magazine, ”The Addams Family” became a live-action television series, then several films and finally a Broadway Musical of the same name (originally starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth).
The Addams family is a macabre comic inversion of the “normal, Donna Reed” depiction of the All-American suburbanfamily. Family members include father Gomez (Jeremiah Plessinger), mother Morticia (Keri Baggs), daughter Wednesday (Annie Schneider) son Pugsley (Issiah Current), Uncle Fester (Kyle Taylor), Grandma Addams (Renee Maria) and butler Lurch (Peter Cutler) who all live in their spooky residence in New York’s Central Park. With tongue firmly ensconced in cheek, normalcy in the Addams family includes mother Morticia lovingly calling her son “vermin” and “cockroach” and longing for a dream trip to the sewers of Paris among many other dark allusions to bizarre behaviors. There are many morbid puns and plays on words. It helps your appreciation of the underlying humor if you are familiar with the tone of the classic TV program.
The conflict arises when Wednesday falls in love with a truly “normal” hayseed from Ohio, Lucas Beineke (played by Elliot Handkins) and wants to invite him and his parents to dinner. One of the most memorable scenes is the song “One Normal Night” when both families prepare for the anticipated (and dreaded) dinner party. Morticia bakes an “apple pie” and Gomez throws a football on one side of the stage while the Beineke parents (Alice played by Karen Galliers Hendershot and Mal portrayed by Jacob Butler) try to figure out how to prepare for this outlandish confrontation. It’s the classic: boy meets girl, boy loses girl and boy gets girl back again story told in a darkly hilarious manner.
There is also an unusual chorus called collectively the Ancestors who live in a crypt on the Addams family estate. Individual ancestors are not identified but, due to excellent costuming by Caren Brady, we can see historic and fictional characters including the Mad Hatter, Grand Inquisitor, Marie Antoinette, a World War I soldier, a conquistador, a flapper and a bride. Through a combination of drab costumes and makeup, the Ancestors appear to be ghosts. The Ancestors (Jeremy Neale Cox, Liam Sweeney, Christian Arias, Tyler Rosenblatt, Savannah Boyd, Mary Mills, Kelsey Chandler and Sally Modzelewski) sing and dance well throughout the show.
The non-descript music but extraordinarily clever lyrics by Andrew Lippa are sung admirably by the cast. All of the principals have good to excellent voices with a special nod to Plessinger, Schneider and Hendershot. Youngster Issiah Current excels as Pugsley both in acting (for his age) and his command of the stage. Kyle Taylor as the ubiquitous Uncle Fester almost steals the show. Plessinger portrays a dashing Gomez with great charm and charisma and Baggs personifies the Goth, gorgeous, unsmiling and slyly witty Morticia to delicious delight. Tall, statuesque and draped in a black flowing dress, Baggs looks exactly like her cartoon counterpart. Peter Cutler as Lurch is largely silent but displays his pipes at the end of the show.
A primary theme of the show is honesty of relationships. Keeping secrets leads to many plot complications and erodes both sets of marriages.
The staging by Brett Bowling amplifies the eeriness of the show with a creepy house replete with gargoyles and a suit of armor, a decrepit crypt (home of the Ancestors), several park benches and a very significant humongous moon. Unlike many other shows, there are few movable props but a large dinner table moves the story along. Denny Reed’s lighting enhances the spookiness with lots of red lights (blood) and an everchanging hue of the moon. At the end, there is a very illuminating twist to the moon.
Again, the costuming is extraordinary in the show including many wigs worn by Morticia, Gomez and the Ancestors. There is a subtle change in the makeup and costumes of the Ancestors towards the end. The punch line in one significant scene centers on two yellow dresses.
Director Bob Brunner, choreographer Jeni Bayer and Music Director and keyboardist Ron Attreau contribute nicely to the show. There is considerable dancing including a number of tangos highlighted by Morticia and Gomez’s “Tango De Amor”. Dancing by the Ancestors is both ethereal (as ghosts) and energetic in the tango scenes.
Overall, this is a fun show with enough social satire to provide some dramatic meat. The Gomez/Morticia relationship, the Ancestors and Uncle Fester carry the day.
So, celebrate your upcoming Halloween by Lurching down with other Ohio and Kentucky hayseeds to the Covedale Theater to visit “The Addams Family” running through November 10.