Urinetown: The Musical
Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Aug. 26
The crowning achievement of Raleigh Little Theatre's production of Urinetown: The Musical is its unflagging playfulness. Filled with satirical dialogue, Urinetown's cleverness is a part of its fun. Set in a Gotham-esque town sometime after a fictional period known as "The Stink Years," the musical comedy offers audiences a poignant message using green topics and hilariously bleak realism. When faced with problems of limited resources, the ever-needy townspeople are forced by the greedy entrepreneurs at Urine Good Company to pay a fee for the essential act of peeing.
The play's intelligence arises, in part, from creators Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann's ability to maintain a thread of relevance amidst the stereotypes of moral alignment: a beautiful girl with a pure heart (Katherine Anderson), a greedy businessman (Scotty Cherryholmes) and an idealistic young man (Zach Morris). As a refreshing addition to the play's wit, Urinetown offers challenges to the conventional morality of musicals: The townspeople are rather bloodthirsty, and the awful tactics of Urine Good Company are revealed as a generally effective way to control the town's problems.
In addition to the inherent playfulness of the original script, Raleigh Little Theatre does a grand job of contributing its own subtle tricks and constant enthusiasm. When the rebellious townspeople don armbands and standoff against the greedy company, Urinetown's precocious ragamuffin Little Sally (Melissa Patterson) puts an armband on her stuffed rabbit doll and holds him high above the crowd in a righteous pose to face down the bad guys. The cast's vivacity reveals itself through their catchy dance numbers and hilarious subtletiesat one point Cherryholmes mimics a bull, charging the file folders in the hands of his employees, who are equally entertaining as they agilely prance in and out of the office.
The cast also does a nimble job with Urinetown's fetching and diverse musical score, the highlights of which were Rob Jenkins' "Cop Song" and Zach Morris' gospel-flecked tune "Run, Freedom, Run!"—both performers exhibited strong vocal talents and considerable pluck when faced with difficult compositions. A musical comedy presented by an enthusiastic cast, Urinetown is one you won't want to miss. —Megan Stein
Transactors Improv Co.
San Francisco Improv Festival
Chapel Hill's Transactors Improv took their tricks to the West Coast late last month as they joined the bill for the closing weekend of the seven-week-long San Francisco Improv Festival. The Transactors brought their brand of impromptu long-form drama to a bill they shared with the Los Angeles duo of Razowsky & Clifford and San Francisco's own Un-Scripted Theater. Given that the festival venue was only a dozen blocks from the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, it may have been intentional that the Transactors got into the spirit of this Bay Area season, the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.
Indy contributor Marc Maximov was in San Francisco and caught two of the shows. "For the festival, they used their novel improv form, called 'Gender Benders,' in which each performer alternates between male and female personas," Maximov reported by telephone. "They played it as much for drama as comedy, which was a change of pace from the other groups, and seemed to suit the West Coast capital of gender politics." —David Fellerath