Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 20
A grail-full of guffaws: PCPA Theaterfest lets its chain mail down for Monty Python's delightfully lewd Spamalot
BY JOE PAYNE
If you do not go and see PCPA Theaterfest’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot, I will be force to say “Ni!” to you!
Well, maybe I won’t go that far.
Monty Python fans are squirming with delight to find that PCPA is staging an outrageously hilarious production of Spamalot no more than an un-laden swallow’s flight away at the beautiful outdoor Solvang Festival Theater.
Largely based on the cult phenomenon film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot brings back King Arthur and his bumbling Knights of the Round Table. The play rehashes much of the film’s most beloved moments, complete with the iconic, oft-quoted dialogue—yet it also expands with glee, satirizing musicals and live theater and bringing the audience along for the ride.
This production is quite an impressive undertaking for PCPA Theaterfest for many reasons. Firstly, I can’t think of many of the conservatory’s productions from years past that use the number of costume changes, set pieces, and lighting techniques that Spamalot does.
Scenic designer DeAnne Kennedy always provides a brilliant backdrop for PCPA productions—The Wizard of Oz, The Tempest, and Hairspray, to name a few—and this set is no exception. The stage is flanked by two halves of the giant Holy Grail that serves as the quest object for Arthur and his knights. The visual appeal gets theatergoers excited and smiling before the play even starts. Also, the number and versatility of the set pieces make for unpredictable scene changes that are all part of the action.
Frederick P. Deeben, PCPA’s costume designer for Spamalot, must have worked his and his staff’s fingers to the bone designing the various costumes that come to play during the show. From King Arthur and his signature crown to the feral look of the Knights Who Say “Ni,” every character could have stepped straight out of the film. The ensemble cast, it seems, is constantly changing costumes; from self-flagellating monks to French chorus line girls, there’s no telling who might show up on stage.
The musical is also a far cry from PCPA’s usual repertoire in that it’s—in true Monty Python fashion—lewd, crude, and brimming with hilariously employed expletives.
“I fart in your general direction, you wipers of other people’s bottoms!” declares the French Knight, portrayed by Erik Stein.
Monty Python celebrates silliness, and the profanity is nothing but funny. As one of the musical numbers—lovingly lifted from Monty Python’s Life of Brian—says, “Always look on the bright side of life.” All the crudeness is in good fun, and PCPA’s resident actors revel in the brash comedy Monty Python dishes up.
Joseph Cannon, an actor newer to PCPA but already familiar with the role of Arthur, King of the Britons, plays the king with a twinkle in his eye and a royal grin. Surrounding him are the whirlwind talents of Billy Breed as Patsy, Michael Jenkinson as Sir Robin, Erik Stein as Sir Lancelot, George Walker as Sir Galahad, Leo Cortez as Sir Bedevere, and Karin Hendricks as The Lady of the Lake.
Keep in mind that every one of the actors portraying one of Arthur’s knights will be appearing as several other iconic characters. From the Black Knight—who yes, is dismembered on stage without concern—to the Enchanter called Tim, these actors manage to squeeze every last drop of comedic creativity from each other in the name of Spamalot.
The kind of fission generated by the culmination of all that talent reaches a critical mass, yet never lets the audience down, leaving the viewers in a state of euphoric enjoyment, even hours after the play has ended. PCPA fully embraces and owns the kind of over-the-top energy necessary to really put on a production such as Spamalot, illustrating once again that the theater company can achieve just about anything it wants.
Arts Editor Joe Payne knows that strange women, lying in ponds, distributing weapons, are no basis for a system of government! Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.