Silliness takes the stage at Dominican University’s Forest Meadows Amphitheatre as the Marin Shakespeare Company presents Monty Python’s Spamalot. It’s the company’s first full musical production in 30 years.
“Lovingly ripped off” from the Python’s 1975 cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table on their quest to find the revered relic. Original Python member Eric Idle took the core of the screenplay and added songs (with John Du Prez), as well as other Python bits to come up with a full-fledged Broadway musical. Needless to say, it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with the comedy troupe’s repertoire.
King Arthur (Jarion Monroe) and his faithful servant Patsy (Bryan Munar) are scouring the English countryside for men to join the Court at Camelot. After gathering the likes of Robin (Phillip Percy Williams), Lancelot (Ariel Zuckerman), Galahad (Michael McDonald) and Bedivere (Nathan Townsend Levy), they’re off on their quest. Their journey takes them to a castle manned—oddly—by French soldiers and through a very expensive forest. Along the way they encounter the Lady of the Lake (Susan Zelinsky), the Knights Who Say Ni, an argumentative Black Knight, a damsel in distress (Joseph Patrick O’Malley) and a killer rabbit, before their quest is (somewhat) completed.
Python humor runs the gamut from sociopolitical satire to outrageous slapstick. Some of it holds up after 40-plus years, some of it doesn’t. Drag has always been a component of British humor, but the evolution of that performance style makes it as archaic—and funny—as pie throwing.
Director Robert Currier, who along with music director Paul Smith and choreographer Rick Wallace are long-time fans of the comedy troupe, has gathered a game cast to execute the tomfoolery. Many of them essay several roles, with Monroe’s Arthur at the center as more-or-less the show’s straight man forced to deal with the silliness surrounding him. They’re all good, with O’Malley doing yeoman’s work in three very different roles—as the Historian, Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert. Zelinksy is delightful as the Lady in the Lake and performs one of the show’s best musical numbers with “The Diva’s Lament.”
The timing and choreography could be crisper in several scenes, and sound issues plagued the performance I attended, but if you’re on a quest for laughs, seek out Spamalot.
‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ runs through Aug. 25 at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, 890 Belle Ave., San Rafael. Thursday – Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday, 4 pm. $10 – $38. 415.499.4488.
A Little Mermaid production undertaken in Bolinas next weekend puts a climate change spin on the Hans Christian Andersen—and Walt Disneyfied—classic fable tale. Molly Maguire and her co-screenwriters weren’t interested in a Mermaid who had to sacrifice her freedom, or her flippers, in order to leave her undersea world and commune with humans. Rather, Maguire, Maya Giannini and Bridget Bartholeme have re-cast the classic as a feminist-informed tale that’s concerned less with marrying off the mermaid to some silly prince, but in saving the planet from garbage. The result is a sustainable upcycling of the classic fairy tale.
“Women chasing after princes?” says Maguire. “Enough of that. We didn’t want Ariel to be so giving—to give everything away for a man. At least give it away for something that’s going to save the world!”
In this rendering, the male lead character of Eric isn’t a prince, but an ocean scientist who is busily trying to remove trash from the ocean, on a paddleboard. Ariel, the Mermaid, is doing the same—collecting ocean trash from the sea-floor and making art out of it. These undersea folks have determined that those land-bound creatures are a total menace.
Eric proves his decency by saving a turtle, Triton starts to appreciate his daughter’s art and what it means to her and Ariel wants some feet. He eventually sends his daughter off, with new human legs, to the human world. In a sweetly comic touch, he sends his child off with a gift, a pair of flippers. Eric is meanwhile telling his scientist friends, who are women, that he’s fallen in love with a mermaid. In the end, they paddleboard off in to the sunset together, destination unknown. Awwww! —Tom Gogola