In Tom Stoppard‘s wonderful farce, On the Razzle, the humor relies on mistaken identities, lots of puns and malapropos, pratfalls, sex, and pomposity. Silver Spring Stage’s hilarious production, which opened last night. is produced by Jim Robertson and directed by Erin Bone Steele.
If the plot seems familiar, you might want to know it was first written as the Viennese play Einen Jux will er sich machen by Johann Nestroy. It was later adapted by Thorton Wilder in the 1930’s as the Merchant of Yonkers and then again in the 1950s as The Matchmaker which became Hello, Dolly! The first two did not center on the Dolly Levi character, but on the merchant and his helpers. On the Razzle takes that viewpoint.
Zangler, the merchant, (Roger Stone), wants to marry the owner of a woman’s clothing shop, Madam Knorr (Leta Hall). He also is the guardian of his niece, Marie (Micaela Mannix), who is in love with Sonders (Christopher Crockett), a nice young man but right now of no financial means. Zangler is intent on breaking up this relationship.
Zangler is off to Vienna to be in a parade and court the lady of his dreams, and decides to make one of his workers, Weinberl (Michael Abendshein), his partner and promote the intern, Christopher (Sarah Pfanz) to a chief clerk. Weinberl and Christopher decide to sneak away while their boss is out of town and go “on the razzle” in Vienna. (‘On the razzle’ is when celebrities get drunk or decide to get drunk). Into all this Zangler hires a new servant, Melchior (Stuart Fischer), who is new in town and his lack of familiarity with the other principles only leads to more insanity.
In Vienna, mayhem and hilarity ensue. Weinberl pretends to be the husband of Frau Fisher (Lorrie Smith), a recent widow. Christopher is mistaken for the niece, Marie. The Coachman (Ken Kemp), hired by Zangler to bring his niece to her aunt, Miss Blumenblatt, has a merry old time with the French maid (Elizabeth Grace Colandene), at the aunt’s home (Virginia Swanson).
On the Razzle demands a lot of intricate staging and Director Erin Bone Steele does an excellent job on this demanding two sided projecting stage. She keeps the action flowing so we never realize the shenanigans on stage are so absurd, like Scottish tartans being the big fad in Vienna. The production is a cross between Monty Python and The Marx Brothers. Steele understands that this is not a play with deep meaning stating, “This is a double-fudge comedy with a cherry on top.” The audience gets to enjoy the dessert. It all works masterfully under her leadership.
The cast is chock full of talented comedic actors, all of whom have wonderful timing. Zangler, played by Roger Stone, is hysterical as the bumbling tongue twisted merchant. Whether he is wearing his ridiculous uniform or chasing after his niece, he is both loveable and clownish.
Christopher is often played by a woman, and Silver Spring Stage has cast Sarah Pfanz following this tradition. Christopher plays most of his/her scenes off Weinberl, portrayed by Michael Abendshein. Weinberl is a rather large man and Christopher is smaller in stature. They reminded me of Laurel and Hardy as the two are perfectly matched. In the scene where we are first really introduced to their friendship, Christopher listens to an often-repeated political tirade by his friend and supervisor. Pfanz’s actions underscore the pomposity of his/her co-worker. Both actors endear themselves to the audience immediately.
Melchior is played by Stuart Fischer. He is both the fool and the wise jester. The actor gives credit to Charles Janasz who he saw play the role 30 years ago. Fischer has great comic timing and helps the character move the plot along several times, especially in a very funny restaurant scene.
Lorrie Smith Saito’s Frau Fisher is a standout as well. She is very adept at being both conniving and flirtatious. Leta Hall plays Madame Knorr very convincingly, capturing the self-assured shopkeeper. There are strong performances by Christopher Crockett and Micaela Mannix as Sonders and Marie, the flummoxed lovers. Ken Kemp and Elizabeth Grace Colandene are outrageous as the horny Coachman and the naughty French Maid, Lisette.
Rounding out the talented cast are Virginia Swanson (Fraulein Blumenblatt), Alex Batselos (the Constable and Customer), and Ruth Diaz (Philippine and Ragamuffin). Amanda Wesley and Jacy D’Aiutolo each deftly play many smaller parts.
Andrew Greenleaf’s set uses turntables, and signage changes to take us from Zangler’s mercantile store, to the streets of Vienna, to the lady’s clothing stop, then to the posh restaurant, switching to Miss Blumenblatt’s home, then her garden and back to the store. He uses all the nooks and crannies of the unusually shaped stage to place tables, desks, armoires, etc. Don Slater’s lighting design complements the scenery and keep all the actors lit even when they are hiding from each other. The costumes were in period and of special note were the tartan cloaks and Zangler’s uniforms created by talented Costume Designer Sandy Eggleston.
Also a nod to Stage Manager Alika Codispoti, for keeping the scene changes so quick that the action continued to flow effortlessly.
In the words of Director Erin Bone Steele, “It’s nice to take a break from the very real problems of our world and go on a short razzle.”
Come to Silver Spring Stage’s On the Razzle and be dazzled.
Running Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
On the Razzle plays from May 29th to June 20, 2015 at Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD, in the Woodmoor Shopping Center. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 593-6036, or purchase them online. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM and matinees on Sundays June 7th and 14th at 2:00 PM.