Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Ice Breaker"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey

Ecology is Everywhere These Days

By Beverly Creasey

The going is a bit rough in the New Repertory Theatre’s THE ICE BREAKER (thru Nov 19), not to be confused with Sir Michael Tippett’s THE ICE BREAK. David Rambo’s play about the slow thaw of an isolated, disillusioned geologist (by way of a great BIG ecological metaphor: the melting of the polar ice cap) tends to meander, despite a charming performance by Will Lyman as the crusty, glacial professor. You see, years ago he abandoned his work in the Antarctic just short of predicting global warming when a personal tragedy stopped him cold. Now into his reclusive world barges a young, overheated graduate student (Amy Russ) who desperately wants him to mentor and inspire her.

At first, director David Zoffoli leads us to believe this is going to be a screwball comedy. Russ flies onto the scene like Katherine Hepburn in BRINGING UP BABY, ready to upset archeologist Cary Grant’s reconstruction of a tyrannosaurus. (The playwright even gives her the equivalent of a T-Rex to topple.) Then the play veers into soap territory with lots of sudsy emotional complications. We learn why the prof gave it all up and why she’s taken it all up, complete with terribly obvious allusions to “bedrock” and “shifting sands.” But by the time the plucky grad girl realizes why there was no ice cap a thousand years ago, we’re way ahead of her, thanks to Rambo’s endless explanations of spiking CO2 gases… just like NOW, get it?

Fortunately, Lyman can navigate the ice floes without losing his dignity but Russ comes off like a persistent mosquito for a lot of the play. Alan Joslin’s set is spectacular (both cold and hot) and Dennis Parichy’s purple sunset makes you want to move to the desert and find an adobe bungalow like the professor’s and never, never face the snow again.

Vokes Players are giving URINETOWN, that nutty musical about global water shortages, a good run (thru Nov 11) for its money—or should I say a run for its bunny. Either way, URINETOWN is a hit. I know, it’s shameless. It’s naughty: It’s a hilarious civics lesson in wild disguise. As Al Gore keeps telling us, there’s only so much potable water to go around and in URINETOWN: THE MUSICAL, the poor guys have to buy it from the rich, even enough to flush with---giving rise to the anthem, “It’s a Privilege to Pee.”

As Little Sally (Peri Chouteau in fine “Shirley Temple” fettle) points out, URINETOWN is a terrible title for a musical. For lovers of the genre, URINETOWN sends up a half dozen other musicals, marching in place a la Les Miz or rumbling like the Jets….and it’s great fun spotting the jokes.

Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann’s musical actually owes more to The Threepenny Opera: You can hear those ominous Kurt Weill chords right from the get-go in Mario Cruz and company’s crackerjack handling of the overture. Just like Brecht and Weill, Kotis and Hollman take comedy seriously and politically.

David Berti makes a marvelously cynical sewer guide and as Officer Lockstock’s cohort, Mr. Barrel, Bill Stambaugh ratchets up the fright factor. Kendall Hodder is the idealistic (but shortsighted, not to mention short lived) hero and Sarah Consentino is delightfully daffy as his true love. Both sing deliciously, making “Follow Your Heart” quite touching. Hodder strikes gold with the rousing “River Run” and the whole cast rides the wave.

Especially enjoyable are Janet Ferreri’s Bette Davis of a rest room matron, Mark Soucy as the foolishly daring old man, Kristen Palson as a bursting Ms. Two Shoes, Robert Mackie as the bunny-baiting toilet maven and a towering Max Bisantz as “Tiny.” Donnie Baillargeon’s fluid direction and Jennifer Condon’s cheeky choreography make the show sail by.

"The Ice Breaker" (25 October - 19 November)
Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, WATERTOWN MA
1(617) 923-8487

"Urinetown" (26 October - 11 November)
Beatrice Herford's Vokes Theatre, Route 20, WAYLAND

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