Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dunces great, with a surprise ending

A Confederacy of Dunces at Book-It Repertory Theatre was a marvelous production made more memorable by an unexpected ending in its penultimate performance Saturday evening.

About five minutes from the end of the play, a bell began ringing, the house lights went up, and a voice on the sound system suggested it was a fire alarm and we should all leave the building. We all just sat there surprised, wondering if it was part of the play, until a few seconds later Brandon Whitehead, who played lead character Ignatius J. Reilly, said, "I think she's serious." To which the voice replied, "I am serious."

We all shuffled out of the theater, which is in the Seattle Center House, and found several of the cast already out in the closed-down Fun Forest. Whitehead and Samara Lerman, who played Myrna (pronounced "Moyna") Minkoff, decided to put on the final scene for us. That's them in a Weisenheimer photo at right. They're in a car. Imagine it!

I must admit I was a little reluctant to see Dunces. I loved the book, but the characters and the activity were bizarre enough that I wasn't sure if it would translate well to the stage. Mary Machala adapted John Kennedy Toole's novel for the stage and directed this production as well, and I have to say that everything was spot-on.

Whitehead's portrayal of Ignatius was particularly marvelous, though I'm worried about him. The poor guy eats four or five hot dogs on stage for each show, and Saturday was a two-performance day. Maybe they found him some veggie dogs with a little less fat and sodium. Hope so! Also grand was Ellen McLain as Irene Reilly, Ignatius' momma. Betty Campbell was a riot as the elderly and shuffling Miss Trixie, long-time employee of Levy Pants where Ignatius worked for a brief time. Cynthia Geary, who played Shelley in the TV series "Northern Exposure," was a lot of fun in the roles of Mrs. Levy and Lana Lee.

Three cheers for Book-It for an entertaining production, and hats off to an excellent cast for being able to roll with the unexpected and finish a most memorable evening.

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