Pantalone's War

Local Arts Reviews

Pantalone's War: Blunt Satire

Mother Egan's Pub, through April 5

Running Time: 45 min

Once Fox News' O'Reilly Factor did politics and French jokes while the Austin Commedia Society did laughs. Now, along comes ACS's Pantalone's War, a heavy-handed commentary on current events. The reversal will be complete when a masked O'Reilly goes on tour with a pair of lovers, a harlequin, and a maid.

The society, which previously created its own chortle-filled variations on the traditional Italian form, borrowed the latest scenario from a company in New York, which seems a long way to go for a didactic script. Author Adam Sullivan charges at politics like a lame placard composer.

Pantalone (Mike Ooi) is a weak tyrant in 16th-century Italy whose daughter Flaminia (a good, simpering Kate Meehan) has just been arrested for underage drinking. Pass the wormwood. Frankie Benavides relishes the role of Dottore, a cackling, hand-rubbing, hawk-nosed secretary of defense figure who has the hots for Flaminia. Dottore and Pantalone cook up an invasion of France to get rid of Flaminia's fiancé, the foppish poet Flavio (Paul Joiner). As Pantalone holds a news conference to justify the war, the shrill tone of the play starts to jar. He claims the war is all about greed, gold, and an "enormous tax cut" for the rich -- like much of the script, this probably sounded funnier when chanted at a protest.

Meanwhile, gay Capitano (Mike Lee) abandons his troops in Normandy to chat up Flaminia, who dresses as a boy to get into a bar. When not making points or innuendoes, Sullivan specializes in cheese comedy. Lee and Joiner battle to keep straight faces through material such as:

"You know that old saying?"

"What old saying?"

"Please don't kill me."

Homeland security is a better mark than Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pantalone's maid Columbina (the standout Genevieve Salmon) answers the door to Dottore in an early scene, and the multiple locks and bolts allow for some slapstick mime. Columbina removes the final precaution, an angry badger, just in time for Dottore to tumble over the invisible tripwire. Salmon entangles the audience in these invisible knots.

Ooi, Benavides, and Joiner have cultivated caricatures that, in the manner of the BBC's Blackadder, can induce a chuckle with nothing but the sound of their voices. This time, however, political commentary drowns out the nonsensical anarchy that the Austin Commedia Society was born to perform.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Rob Curran
Exhibitionism
Holy Cross Sucks!
Local Arts Reviews

May 23, 2003

Exhibitionism
"Pertaining to Painting"
Local Arts Reviews

Dec. 27, 2002

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Pantalone's War, Austin Commedia Society, Adam Sullivan, Mike Ooi, Kate Meehan, Frankie Benavides, Paul Joiner, Mike Lee, Genevieve Salmon

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle