The Persians: a comedy about war with five songs is an eclectic evening of vignettes and songs developed by Waterwell. Performed by an ebullient quartet, it is an adventurous undertaking that mostly succeeded
As the show startedthe cast was already onstage, milling about and talking amongst themselves. The stage manager gave the five-minute call, and they all acknowledged her in their characters, which were themselves, or at least versions of themselves. The fourth wall was nowhere to be seen as the actors talked directly to the audience, setting up scenes. At one point they even personally thanked selected members for attending.
Most of the vignettes (which are adapted and revised from an old Greek play) deal with war. While there is an obvious analogy to the current war, the war in the show is the Persian War. This was the war that destroyed the Persian Empire -- because of arrogance and pride. Topics dealt with were the effect of war on the family (showcased as sort of a combination between a sitcom and a reality TV show), the necessity to blame someone else for one's own problems (a charming bilingual duet with English subtitles), and the overall realization that many soldiers lost their lives in a meaningless war.
To break up some of the scenes, catchy, dazzling musical numbers were juxtaposed.
The political commentary reminded us how history is cyclical and warned the country to be wary of wars started for superficial reasons. The personal, casual touches made for an honest, endearing atmosphere. The polished patter was a highlight, especially the bickering and teasing. The songs (music and arrangements nicely done by Lauren Cregor) were also a highlight. They livened the mood and made light of some of the serious satire.
However, the five songs were not spaced out evenly, and the one middle section where there wasn't a song for awhile dragged a tiny bit. It would serve the piece better to perhaps add one more number, or to space them out more symmetrically.
The cast (and incidentally the creators of the piece) was divine. Hanna Cheek, Rodney Gardiner, Arian Moayed, and Tom Ridgely (also the director) all excelled in their characterizations, energy, and innovative styles. Each one had at least a few standout moments, and each one captured the audience's affection and attention skillfully and passionately.
Ridgely's direction kept the show moving while keeping all four actors spread out effectively on stage. Kate Mehan and Lynn Peterson's choreography captured the insouciant yet campy air of the music without being too over-the-top. Jeremy Daigle and Joe Morse on guitar and bass added a certain charm to the ambience with their incidental music.
Overall, this was a challenging, daring piece of theatre. And it was funny while making a point, which is admirable. For only $15, this was a great way to spend an evening being inspired, intrigued and entertained.
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Copyright 2005 Bisen-Hersh