Vienna Theatre Company Stretches Its Boundaries With A Thurber Carnival
Vienna Theatre Company deserves credit for stretching the boundaries and bringing A Thurber Carnival to the DC metro area.
Many of the scenes are based on essays written by James Thurber for The New Yorker Magazine more than 70 years ago. Surprisingly, much of the content transcends the decades nicely, although a few of the skits – “Word Dance” and “Gentleman Shoppers” in particular – suffer from archaic language and cultural shifts in norms.
Under the capable direction of Denise Perrino, a talented cast of 14 shifts in and out of a black and white set – also designed by Perrino – bringing the skits and stories of Thurber to life. In a piece like this, it is important that the ensemble has solid chemistry with one another and a clear understanding of and ability to communicate the author’s words. While the pacing of scenes dragged a little at times, this fine ensemble of actors (John Barclay Burns, Judy Butler, Bill Doyle, Adriana Hardy, Amanda Hine, Pamela Kasenetz, Annie Kehrli, Steven Palkovitz, Steven Rosenthal, Sue Schaffel, David Segal, Jocelyn Steiner, Kevin Walker, and Janice Zucker) embraced the challenge of bringing Thurber’s quirky comedy to a new generation.
When the pacing is fast and the timing is exact, A Thurber Carnival is very, very funny. One of the most laugh-outloud skits in the play is “File and Forget,” in which Thurber (admirably played by John Barclay Burns) recounts his famous correspondence with various publishers who ship him books he doesn’t want and never ordered. “Fables For Our Time” is classic Thurber, with unexpected and delightful endings to The Wolf at the Door, The Unicorn in the Garden, and The Little Girl and the Wolf. Amanda Hine is a particularly sassy Little Girl to Steven Rosenthal’s greedy Wolf.
Jocelyn Steiner and Kevin Walker provide a seamless and moving narration to Ben Allen’s haunting projections in “The Last Flower” – a parable for our times. Janice Zucker is hysterical as a rattled television veterinarian in “The Pet Department.” David Segal and Judy Butler have diabolical chemistry in “Mr. Preble Gets Rid Of His Wife.”
A Thurber Carnival offers an old-fashioned evening of comedy. Kudos to Vienna Theatre Company for tackling such an intellectually challenging piece.
Running Time: 2 hours, plus a 15-minute intermission.
A Thurber Carnival plays through November 2, 2014 at Vienna Theatre Company performing at The Vienna Community Center – 120 Cherry Street, SE, in Vienna, VA. Tickets may be purchased at the Vienna Community Center any time the Community Center is open or before the performance you wish to attend. The Community Center accepts payment in the form of cash or checks made out to The Town of Vienna. Tickets may be reserved in advance by sending an email to VTCshows@yahoo.com by noon on the day of an evening performance, and by 5:00 PM the day before a matinee.