Kitchen Dog Theater, now in its 27th year, recently premiered Pompeii, a musical comedy about the ill-fated citizens of the eponymous ancient city in the final days before the eruption of Vesuvius.
The doomed residents of Pompeii serve as stand-ins for all of humanity going about their day-to-day lives just spinning the wheel of fate. What to do in those last hours before ultimate destruction? Put on a show, of course.
Kitchen Dog company members Cameron Cobb, Michael Federico and Max Hartman have dreamed up a vaudevillian romp packed full of the old razzamatazz. The trio also wrote a few catchy tunes that might stick with you for a few hours after leaving the theater.
Everyone in the talented cast sings, dances, plays instruments and hams it up. Clowns twirl plungers and mug with the audience, and a drunken magician performs card tricks. A Statue of Liberty pops out of a cake. The Mount Olympus switchboard, manned by two gum-smacking operators, directs the prayers of desperate residents seeking help from the gods. This show goes to great lengths to get laughs, and it got plenty opening night.
The playwright, actor and musician Hartman, plays Sammy Mulligan and serves as ringmaster of this circus, also leading the three-piece band that accompanies the action. Thiago X. Nascimento stays in the background, capably playing the piano. Ian Ferguson is Jimmy Mulligan, among other roles, and plays guitar in the band. Ferguson is especially hilarious as a narcissistic Roman emperor. Actor Parker Gray is believable as sad sack lil’ Georgie.
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With skilled comedic timing and great facial expression, Steph Garrett kept the audience laughing. Her fellow clown, the sad-faced Dennis Raveneau, was tasked with moving the wheel each time the volcano rumbled. The deep-voiced Raveneau, a talented singer, gave a moving performance when he sang of the "darkness we hide in our souls."
The show is billed as satire, and everyone is fair game for a good-natured ribbing. The first to be made fun of are the performers, who say that "audiences just don’t understand how their lives are being changed by our performances." There are sleazy politicians and survivalists using doom and destruction to line their pockets, liberal academics who don’t contribute ideas but "just undercut the ideas of others" and a generation of entitled young people who should just "strap on their sandals and get a job."
Pompeii considers annihilation and destruction and decides that while waiting for life’s inevitable conclusion, we might as well have a few laughs.
The show runs through May 6, and tickets range from $15-$30.