CKP's acclaimed nostalgic farce "Pints Pounds & Pilgrims" aims more for the hysterical than the historical
Published on 18 May 2023 | Written by Kathy McAuley
Back for a return engagement, Crowded Kitchen Players' popular satire about the adventures of making theater, “Pints Pounds & Pilgrims,” will be performed at The Charles A. Brown Ice House, June 2-18.
The play about putting on plays was inspired by a long-ago Theatre Outlet trip to the tiny island of Inishbofin off the west coast of Ireland.
It’s a send-up of the 'whys and wherefores' of a subject well known by playwright Ara Barlieb. Having directed nearly 100 shows over the past 24 seasons -- many he also wrote – he presents an intimate look at how theater is put together, a hysterical rather than historical record.
“Pints Pounds & Pilgrims” is one of CKP’s most popular shows – though their dramas have been doing well over the past several years. Nevertheless, Barlieb’s bent is towards broad comedy, and in this play he may have reached his outer limit.
"Pints Pounds & Pilgrims is not only paced by a blisteringly funny script, it’s a must-see," wrote Paul Willistein in Lehigh Valley Press. "The play is not only near nonstop laughter, it’s near nonstop laughter nose snorts."
And Dave Howell, in The Morning Call, described it as, "A successful romp through the theater world. Although it is a comedy, it realistically shows the difficulties and nightmares that can arise from being on stage."
Here’s what happens: Two interloping theater companies, one British and the other American, arrive in Ireland like missionaries presuming to bring cultural salvation to a small Irish isle.
Of course, the world knows that Ireland has produced some of the finest theater, literature, poetry and music in the world and does not need outside intervention.
Yet these groups soldier on.Complicating the issue is that the town only has a performing slot for one troupe.
“Imagining a collision of these disparate entities was irresistible,” Barlieb says. Making theater is never easy to begin with, inevitably involving the clash of artistic egos.
“I think this play, and the plays within it, are fairly reflective of our experiences,” he says. "This show gives the audience an entertaining glimpse of what actually happens while plays are created, rehearsed and staged."
In the first play-within-the-play, on Inishbofin, the British troupe presume to offer a serious drama about how drug addiction destroys a young Irish family.
Meanwhile, in Hoboken, NJ, the Americans present a shameless dinner theater bedroom farce about a husband caught in several compromising positions, all involving his wife's family members.
“The plays within the play are intended to represent the worst that theater can offer – pretention, presumption, and insistence,” Barlieb says.
Despite hearing the truth from the islanders who comprise the Inishbofin festival committee, the American and British companies blindly march forward with their artistic conceits. Although the farce is the thing – Barlieb says the script is written for maximum laughs – the subtext demonstrates what small, independent theaters suffer through for their art. Theater is expensive and time-consuming, yet most don’t make enough money selling tickets to keep the lights on. They do it for love, and that’s what shows most of all with CKP.
The cast features Trish Cipoletti, Sharon Ferry, David Oswald, Colleen Popper, Scott Van Nortwick, Pamela Wallace, Brian Wendt, Carla Hadley, Dawn Daignault, Michael Sheridan, Thomas Epstein, Sandra Repash, and Jake Walbert.
The farce "Pints Pounds & Pilgrims" runs June 2-18, 730PM Fridays and Saturdays, 200PM Sundays.