Monday, June 15, 2015

The Explorers Club

(from L to R) David Silberman, Greg Alexander, Dave Pierini, John Lamb,
Jason Kuykendall, Stephanie Altholz
An outrageously funny comedy has them rolling in the aisles at the B Street Theater in Sacramento.

“The Explorers Club” by Nell Benjamin is tautly directed by Buck Busfield assisted greatly by Technical Director Steven Schmidt and Scenic Designer Meg McGuigan.  There isn’t a noticeable false movement or shaky piece of equipment in the play, which is key to its enjoyment.

Jason Kuykendall is Lucius Fretway, the acting president of the Explorers Club, a good old boys’ club of 1879 London.  Lucius wants to propose Phyllida Spotte-Hume (Stephanie Altholz) for membership as she has recently discovered the lost city of Pahatlabong and is set to present to Queen Victoria a member of the NaKong tribe (looking for all the world like an escapee from Blue Man Group–or a Smurf).  Lucius feels this qualifies her for admission to the Club, which has never had a female member. 

(The Royal Society, which debuted in 1660 did not admit a woman until 1945, Canada’s Royal Society barred women until 1938 and France’s Academy of Sciences would not elect a woman to full membership until 1979, even blackballing Marie Curie).

Lucius’ proposal rocks the membership - Professor Sloane (David Silberman), a biblical archaeologist who has proof that ancient Jews migrated to Ireland and that all Irishmen are really Jews; Professor Cope (Allen McKelvey), a herpetologist with a beloved snake named Rosie; and Professor Walling (Greg Alexander), obsessed with his pet guinea pig.

Phyllida’s wild tribesman has a name too long to pronounce, so she has called him Luigi (after a former boyfriend) and rewards him for proper behavior with treats, much like one would a dog.  John Lamb’s performance steals the show and would be worth the price of admission alone, were it not that the rest of the cast is so perfect as well.

It is clear that Lucius is in love with Phyllida.  He has, after all, named a plant after her, but any hopes for a romance are dashed by the return of the club’s rightful president Harry Percy (David Pierini), a larger than life explorer who claims to have just discovered the “east pole,” and who takes an instant shine to the woman and, unlike Lucius, is not shy about letting her know his feelings.

The action in this farce is rapid fire and unrelenting.  Delivery of drinks from the bar, by Luigi, who fills in for the missing bartender after his disastrous introduction to Queen Victoria sparks an international incident, is hilarious.

Winston Koone is Bernard Humphries, secretary to the queen, come to the Explorer’s club to capture the offending Luigi and Eason Donner is Beebe, an explorer whom Percy abandoned and left to the natives, returning to exact revenge.

Outside there are angry crowds representing several different groups who have bones to pick with someone inside...or with each other.

Don’t attempt to make sense of any of this, just relax and enjoy the laughs which are non-stop.

Meg McGuigan’s set is gorgeous, giving a real feel of one of those wood-paneled men’s clubs, with overstuffed furniture, Persian rugs, and trophies on the wall, where stuffy old men go to share brandy and cigars without the intrusion of the fairer sex.

Paulette Sand-Gilbert adds authenticity with her beautiful costumes, particularly the Navy costume for Harry Percy (which he admits he had worn in a production of “H.M.S. Pinafore.”)

This show takes you prisoner from the first line and does not let go until you are weak from laughter two acts later.

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