Theater Review: Laughs by the ‘Pints’-ful
A trip to Ireland inspired “Pints, Pounds and Pilgrims,” one of the funniest of the Crowded Kitchen Players’ productions now playing in honor of St. Patrick’s Day through March 19 at The Unicorn Theatre, 417 Front St., Catasauqua.
The Celtic farce, written and directed by Crowded Kitchen’s artistic director Ara Barlieb, is actually two plays within a play, with a cast of kooky characters who romp through their various scenes with gusto. Their real director obviously has not treated them in any way as badly as do the script’s two fictional directors played by Tom Harrison and David “Oz” Oswald.
Harrison is the bombastic, mean, funny Simon Wexler, a British director whose career was ruined many years ago. Now, he is relegated to directing a maudlin portrayal of an Irish family called “A Bad Year for Potatoes,” commissioned by an undistinguished Irish Arts Festival on a tiny remote island off the coast of Connemara. He takes out his frustrations on his long-suffering cast.
At the March 12 matinee, seen for this review, Harrison captured well the loud, over-demanding side of Wexler, but left us wishing to see just a glimpse of the character’s softer, more vulnerable side.
Oswald is compelling as the American director Benjamin Foolscap, whose company is brought from a Hoboken, N.J., dinner theater to replace Harrison’s gloomy offering with the bawdy bedroom farce “Don’t Dress for Dinner.” Oswald’s portrayal of the comic and poignant sides of Foolscap is in perfect balance. His soliloquy about the disastrous night he flubbed his big chance acting before British royalty and Sir Laurence Olivier is a gem.
Other standouts are Dan Ferry, as the festival chair (aka, the venerable, but lonely lighthouse keeper), and George B. Miller, a 50-year theater veteran and co-founder-artistic director of Selkie Theatre, whose trip to Ireland in 2000 inspired the script. In his first acting role in eight years, Miller takes the minor role of the bartender to a much more spirited level.
Among some of the funniest moments is when Pamela McLean Wallace (billed only as The Wife) hears her husband, played by Patti Squire (yes, Patti), returning home, while her lover is in the on-stage shower. Wallace, co-founder of Crowded Kitchen Players, is at her best when she is “dripping with sexual fulfillment.” Let’s just say you have to see it for yourself.
“Pints’ is crammed with hilarious moments. At the end, when both companies vie for the stage, it is comic bedlam.
This is a return production of “Pints, Pounds and Pilgrims,” which premiered in 2016 to capacity houses. Some new and delightful touches this year include music played on stage by Celtic instrumentalist Kris Kehr.
One last word: The Unicorn Theatre doubles as an art gallery, so it isn’t state of the art for stage productions, but what it lacks in elaborate lighting and sound systems, it makes up for in its intimacy. No need for distracting body mics or heavy, exaggerated makeup. What you do get are memorable close encounters of the acting kind.
Tickets: firstname.lastname@example.org; ckplayers.com; 610-395-7176