|Image courtesy Gremlin Theatre|
From the opening seconds, Gremlin Theatre's production of An Absolute Turkey is off and running. It barely takes a breath during the following three acts, detailing a wild day in the lives of a bevy of lovesick and lovelorn characters. It's all a lot of fun, but it's also a bit exhausting.
Freshly adapted by Nicki Frei and Peter Hall from Georges Feydeau's original early 20th-century farce, An Absolute Turkey sets up a string of increasingly complex situations for its hapless characters. At the center sits (stands, hides, or runs-about madly) Lucienne and Vatelin, a loyal couple who find themselves doubting their loyalty. It doesn't help that professional cad Pontagnac has focused his attentions on Lucienne.
From here, there are plots and counter plots running through each of the three locations: Vatelin's home, the saucy Hotel Ultimus, and finally in the home of Redillon, who has also been wooing Lucienne -- though with more success than Pontagnac.
The multiple settings, which include newly introduced characters at each turn, make the play feel more like three episodes from a farcical sitcom than a fully unified play. There's nothing wrong with that concept, especially in the hands of such a talented cast of actors, who really relish the various strains of humor -- from the physical touches to the word play -- which pays off in some fine comedic moments.
It does, however, require quite a bit of energy from the company and the audience, as both have to restart every 40 minutes or so. By the third iteration, it became harder to stay fully focused on the material. That's a shame, as the play really found an unexpected emotional core near the end that was muted by the mutual exhaustion.
As Lucienne, Sara Richardson plays up the lovelorn wife to almost the breaking point, sometimes acting as if she had just escaped from the cover of a romantic potboiler. It's not a naturalistic way to play the role, but it certainly works in the unrelenting madness of this work. It also puts a moment near the end of the play, when she and her husband (nicely played by Joe Bombard) share an actual honest, romantic moment.
Ryan Lindberg (as Pontagnac) and Peter Christian Hansen (as Redillon) both give terrific, physical performances. Lindberg is all manic energy while Hansen relies on a somewhat more suave (well, as suave as a French farce will allow) appearance and manner. The rest of the cast makes their marks when they can, especially Katharine Moeller's Mitzi, the mad, Swiss ex-lover of Vatelin, or Peter Simmons as the innocent hotel guest who gets ensnared in several different mad plots at once in act two.
IF YOU GO:
An Absolute Turkey
2400 University Ave., St. Paul
Friday through June 17
For tickets, call 888-71-TICKETS or visit online
2400 University Ave., St. Paul, MN