Ridiculous done straight. Sort of. It all harkens back to Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company and his zany, clever, hysterical take on the classics. But to be in that league you need an equally adept writer and stylish cast to carry it off.
This time round we have playwright Chris Weikel’s “Penny Penniworth – A Story of Great Good Fortune” – which has its satirical barbs set on skewering Charles Dickens along with a cast of four thespians that knowingly and successfully carry the torch of ridiculous passed to them by former practitioners and gleefully make it their own.
With the fine tuned direction by Mark Finley which allows the four agile and chameleonic cast members to seamlessly change into the cascade of Victorian characters that inhabit Penny Penniworth, you will certainly get your 3500 pennies worth – the cost of a ticket at the Emerging Artists Theatre – TADA – 15 West 28th Street 2nd floor – between Broadway and Fifth.
With names such as Hotchkiss Spit, Rupert Stryfe (Heir to the House of Stryfe), Miss Havasnort and our heroine Penelope (Penny) Penniworth you see right away where this is all headed. Fortunes lost. Benefactors found. Missives delivered. Identities mistaken. Pirates and a Grand Ball. Coachmen and solicitors. Men playing women. Women playing men. Delicious word play and every cliché played to the hilt. It’s all done with great élan and is great fun.
A finer polished Penny you will never find. Jamie Heinlein is all wide eyed wonderment as she goes through life trying to find her way after her true love Honk, a Blacksmith Boy with an almost unintelligible accent (Christopher Borg) – is sent to sea after nearly killing a wealthy businessman. Although she is only a woman her confidence slowly grows.
She is hired as companion to the wealthy and eccentric Miss Havasnort (Ellen Reilly) who seems to be part and parcel of the Addams family. Creepy. And that’s a compliment. Determined to woo and wed Penny is the arrogant and slimy Rupert Stryfe (Jason O’Connell). Of course there are twists and turns and complications enabling the foursome to take on the many other characters, including Penny’s mom, a monkey, a child singer, an actor and Mr. Pinchnose who has a speech impediment to end all speech impediments. You’ll be howling in disbelief as the plot quickly unfolds.
Sharing the narration the ensemble cast pulls everything off like clockwork with their quick changes and even quicker vocal character changes replete with mannerisms and ticks. All the time playing the absurd goings on for real which only makes “Penny Penniworth” all the more worth seeing. It’s an entertaining, light hearted evening with a cast of truly ridiculous people from Merrie Olde England.