"Pints, Pounds & Pilgrims" hilarious, manic farce
Published on 05 June 2023 | Written by Kathy Lauer-Williams, Lehigh Valley Stage (lvstage.org)
Crowded Kitchen Players presents a hilarious, manic production of “Pints, Pounds & Pilgrims” an original comedy written and directed by Ara Barlieb, at the Charles A. Brown IceHouse, Bethlehem through June 18.
The wacky comedy is a play within in a play, or rather two plays within a play, as the story follows two competing theater companies who go to an arts festival on the Irish Island of Inishbofin off the coast of Connemara, County Galway to perform.
The excellent Trish Cipoletti is imperious as British director Simone Wexler, who deludes herself that her original Irish tragedy, “A Bad Year for Potatoes,” is high art.
Cipoletti is outrageously funny as she blusters, fumes and storms while she delivers arch directions to her clueless cast.
In the opening scene at The Bayside Public House, Wexler’s troupe of actors Colleen Popper, Pamela Wallace and Brian Wendt, misread Wexler’s bleak script, hilariously overacting as they deliver their lines as if it were a very, very broad comedy.
However, the overbearing Wexler has a melt-down as she insists they give her script the gravity she feels it deserves.
Scott Van Nortwick is understatedly solid as Michael, the long-suffering director of the Inishbofin festival, who would rather have a crowd-pleasing comedy than the dreary tragedy, which he worries misrepresents the Irish culture.
Wexler is having an affair with actor Bridgette, who she treats with contempt. Popper simmers under the surface as the put-upon Bridgette, as she embarks on a fling with the accommodating Michael and also sets the conflict in motion when she schemes to have a dinner theater from Hoboken, New Jersey come to Ireland to perform a bedroom farce at the festival.
In New Jersey, David Oswald is well-cast as the sad sack American director Benjamin Foolscap who is leading his less-than-enthusiastic cast through his original farce “Don't Dress for Dinner.” Oswald imbues Foolscap with frustration and a sense of hopelessness.
Cast members Carla Hadley, Michael Sheridan and Jake Walbert are entertaining as they rehearse a crazily chaotic bedroom scene, complete with a bawdy must-be-seen-to-be-believed shower curtain, behind which everyone hides.
When they get the unexpected invitation to Ireland, Foolscap, who wants to redeem himself for a disastrous performance years earlier, mirrors his British counterpart, and decides to change the show into a “serious” Irish tragedy.
However when the cast auditions the new show for the festival director, with ridiculously over-the-top Irish accents and deadening pacing, it is back to farce.
Meanwhile, Wexler’s cast rehearses her play as the grim tragedy she demands, but when she hears there are Americans on the island she decides to change it up again.
All this craziness comes to a head when the two troupes try to perform their shows at the same time, with outrageous results, as all the actors and the two directors careen around the stage moving props and trying to deliver their lines over each other, to the delight of the Irish audience.
Rounding out the cast are Dawn Daignault, Sharon Ferry, Bruce Brown, and Sandy Repash.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. June 9, 10, 16 and 17; and 2 p.m. June 11 and 18.
Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 Students and Seniors. Purchase online by credit card, or by cash or check at the door.
For information, call 610-704-6974, or go to www.ckplayers.com.