Tracker Pixel for Entry

THEATRE: SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Theatre | April 27th, 2016

by Alex Huntsberger

In an age when producers in theatre, television and film are all searching their couches for viable IP (Intellectual Property) to convert into new content, I suppose an Addams Family musical was inevitable—even if it wasn’t that advisable. The show was panned when it opened on Broadway in a production starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, and it underwent subsequent revisions before its first national tour, many of which were actually quite well received.

While the resulting show is minus one giant squid puppet (seriously, there was a giant squid that got cut post-New York), it isn’t lacking in charm. And the cast of FMCT’s new production, directed by Lori Bartlett Koenig, brings a charm all their own. It’s more kooky than it is creepy, and it’s not all that mysterious or spooky, but it is definitely a fun kind of ooky. It’s “The Addams Family.”

The show’s plot revolves around Wednesday Addams (Abbey Imer) coming of age and falling in love with a sweet Ohio boy named Lucas (Billy Schnase). As is proper, Wednesday invites Lucas’ parents, Alice (Shelby Cochran) and Mal (Tony Peterson) over to the Addams’ brooding Central Park homestead so that the families can get to know each other. Wednesday’s parents, Gomez (Cody Gerzewski) and Morticia (Kellie Piper) are none-too-thrilled over the prospect, but she is able to blackmail Gomez into going along with her plan, all the while keeping Morticia in the dark.

It’s an old plot, and it goes hand in hand with the show’s old-fashioned, Catskills-bread sense of humor. Luckily, Koenig and the cast bring the kind of yuck-it-up energy that the show requires. Gerzewski especially is just a delight as Gomez, with Taylor Schatz’s Fester coming in a close second. Heck, even the Ohioans are all joys to watch, with Cochran and Peterson both proving that sometimes repression is far more enjoyable to watch than sheer lunacy.

The Addams Family and musical theatre make an odd marriage—far odder, in fact, than the proposed nuptials at the play’s center. There’s a broadness and an eager-to-please aspect of musical theatre that clashes with the family’s macabre sensibilities.

With the exception of a few moments, the show is fairly tame. The films from the early 90’s look like Tarantino in comparison. And the music, while ably rendered by music director Jo Marie Fike, is mostly forgettable. Still, a few swear words aside—plus one very bawdy joke—it’s a fun, family-friendly evening.

The same couldn’t exactly be said for Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians” playing through this weekend at NDSU. And that’s not a bad thing. Hnath’s play wrestles with questions of faith—how it plays out in our relationships with each other, with our communities and with our ourselves—that do not come with comforting answers. It’s an evening as uncomfortable as it is vital.

The play takes place on the stage of a conservative megachurch, which director Jess Jung and set designer John Goering faithfully recreate right down to the upholstering. Backed by a full church choir, there are 4 chairs, in which are seated the church’s pastor, Paul (Austin Koenig), his wife, Elizabeth, (Emma Woods), his associate pastor Joshua (Daniel Ajak) and a church elder, Jay (Christopher Taylor). There are handheld microphones everywhere, which the Hnath has the actors use to blur the line between sermon, debate and scene.

Paul begins his own sermon by celebrating the fact that the church has just recently paid off the last of its debt. Then he launches into a long story that ends in a shocking revelation. Not only has Paul decided that faith in Jesus Christ is not the sole way into Heaven, but God has told Paul that there is no hell. Soon Paul and the more conservative Joshua are locked into a mid-service debate as to whether the bible actually supports a belief in hell. Joshua leaves, taking a small number of parishioners of with him. In other words: it’s a schism.

The play rests on Koenig’s shoulders, as Paul is in literally every scene, and it’s a burden that he wears comfortably. As the play begins to call some of Paul’s motives (or at least his timing) into question, Koenig is able to give flashes of the man’s not-insubstantial ego. His Paul is a good man, and a genuine believer, but he is not a saint. Woods and Ajak also give fine supporting performances, playing many different registers of hurt, bewilderment and unwavering belief.

What makes “The Christians” so noteworthy is its refusal to actually side with any of its characters. It does not lionize Paul, nor does it condemn Joshua. It’s a play about dialogue, about the urge to communicate across an insurmountable distance. The Christians does exactly what it’s characters cannot—it allows to opposing beliefs to live side-by-side.

IF YOU GO:

The Addams Family

April 22-May 1, 7:30 p.m.

FMCT, 333 4th St. S, Fargo

www.fmct.org

The Christians

April 21-30, 7:30 p.m.

Theatre NDSU, 12th Ave. N and Albrecht Blvd. Fargo

tickets.ndsu.nodak.edu

Recently in:

By Laura Simmonslaurasimmons2025@u.northwestern.eduSummit Carbon Solutions approached North Dakota land owner Kurt Swensonin August 2021, requesting to lease out Swenson’s land to sequester, or store, carbon dioxide underground…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comExhibit recreates and examines the iconic bar’s legacyThere’s something to be said about a good bar. The really good ones serve as a sort of community living room, bringing folks from all walks…

Saturday, December 10, doors 8pm, show at 9pmThe Aquarium, FargoHeavy fuzz rock straight outta Fargo with Hevvy Swetter and Prediction of the Witch.“Closely related to stoner rock, it tends to focus upon downtuned, heavy guitar.…

By HPR Staffsubmit@hpr1.comOur opinion: How can it be 17 years?It’s hard to believe that Ralph’s has been gone for 17 years. I was lucky enough to experience the tail end of its legacy, though technically I wasn’t old enough…

By Ed Raymondfargogadly@gmail.com A Critical Fact: To Fully Understand a Country, One Must Know Its HistoryWe have state legislatures attempting to prevent pre-schools through universities from teaching the real history of our…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.comAs someone who’s written a lot of feature stories and press releases, it’s tempting to write something cheesy as a lead for this month’s column. But, instead, this column will actually feature…

By Martin Beckmanbeckmanniscool@gmail.comSpec is a new hardcore band from the Fargo area featuring Josh on guitar, Ethan on vocals, Austin on guitar, Landon on bass and Robby– drummyboy. Spec has been creating waves with their…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.com“Citizenfour” Oscar-winner Laura Poitras profiles photographer and activist Nan Goldin in “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.” Like its talented subject, the movie cannot be confined to a…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comIf you’ve ever driven down the Enchanted Highway, the 32-mile ribbon of road connecting Regent to Gladstone in western North Dakota, home to the world’s largest salvaged metal sculptures,…

By Jessica M. Hawkesjmhawkes84@gmail.comIt wasn’t long after the founding of the railroad and river town of New Rockford that entertainment venues started to put down their own roots. Its population bolstered by booms of nearby…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comCharlie Berens is a man of many hats. The creator of the “Manitowoc Minute” is a newsman, comedian, writer and musician. We had the opportunity to speak with the Wisconsin native about his new…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comPhoto by: Michelle Tait, Memory Makers Old Time PhotographyIn August URL Radio personality Stacy Sturm knew she wanted to do something for Halloween. She tossed around the thought of a Halloween…

By Waylon Hedegaardretiringwithcats@gmail.comFor all those who still decry my departure from the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian faith, understand that I will never return. I see the examples you set and want no part of…