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Bob Goepfert Reviews Home Made Theater's Production of "The Addams Family"

A theater tradition is to give a star performer applause upon making an entrance.   At the opening night production of “The Addams Family” at Home Made Theater in Saratoga the audience applauded when the stage lights came up.

Why not?  Standing before us were living replicas of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma  and Lurch.

It was a tribute to the work of costume designer Sherry Recinella and to Happy Face FX who created the makeup. While on the positives of the technical support, scenic designer William E. Fritz deserves applause for his impressive set.  However, Stephanie Van Sandt’s lighting took the gloomy mood of the mansion to the level of too dark.

It should be noted that the applause for the cast immediately followed a spontaneous audience finger-snapping exercise during the theme from “The Addams Family.”  Both occasions signaled that the audience was primed to spend time with their favorite cartoon, television and film characters.

They were not to be disappointed.   The performers carefully captured the mannerisms of this unusual family that revels on the macabre. The cast caught the dry delivery of the characters who make the strangest observations seem funny.  (Gomez delights Morticia with a planned one day, seven night trip to explore the sewers of Paris.)

The plot of the musical is beyond shallow.   Wednesday falls in love with a “normal” young man.  She’s invited his Ohioan family to dinner to see how they accept her bizarre family. However, she is afraid to tell her mother Morticia about the engagement and swears her father to secrecy.  It is the first time Gomez has ever kept a secret from his wife. 

The first act nurses what passes as conflict and builds to the family dinner at which the visiting wife Alice has (with the help of a potion) a melt-down about her frustrating life. The second act plods along in an effort to reconcile and reunite everyone.

The performers often overcome the limits of the book, score and lyrics, which are almost tedious in their simplicity.  Especially strong is Christine Meglino who displays a terrific voice and a personality that makes you understand that Wednesday’s child is, indeed, full of woe.  Karen Kloterman makes Alice’s melt-down number great fun and Marc Christopher brings abundant personality to Fester and adds much needed energy to the production.

A problem with most other portrayals is they are denied the spark of originality which comes from incorporating the individual’s own personality into the performance. Too often the on stage creations seem like imitations rather than creations.

As an example, Melissa Lacjian is effective as Morticia but seems to be mostly posing to signal the woman’s deadpan approach to life.  However, when freed by song from the restraints of portraying an enigmatic woman, she is a joy as she brings personality and excitement to her songs (and dances).

Johnny Martinez is very good delivering the perfectly timed comic observations of   Gomez, but he strains to emphasize that Gomez is suave, nonchalant and a blatant romantic.  When the music begins, he too morphs and becomes a naturally charming individual and a vibrant figure.

Martinez is also the choreographer and while an impressive dancer, his dance numbers, especially those featuring the chalky white ensemble called “the ancestors,” seem tentative and lack boldness.  Even the ambitious tango number is more functional than it is dynamic.  

All this tentativeness should improve over the course of the run.   Indeed, improvement is even likely.  Director Dawn Oesch has established a strong base for the show.  The performers understand the comedy that exists within the characters and are already able to build warm relationships within this mysterious and spooky, and dare I say it, kooky family.  

If the entire production takes on the vibrancy shown at the curtain call when the performers let their own personalities sneak into the characters, this production will shine by the time it closes on October 26.

“The Addams Family,” Home Made Theater, at the Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Springs.  Performances 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.    587-4427.    

Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.



The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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