British Humor Comes Across the Atlantic in Playcrafters’ ‘ALLO ‘ALLO

by Kelly Thunstrom

Woody Hale, Dinesh Pethiyagoda and Kurt Shaffer in a scene from Playcrafters of Skippack’s ‘ALLO, ‘ALLO.

It’s not every day that a theatergoer opens up a program and sees an acknowledgement to Wegman’s grocery store, thanking them for providing sausages. However, it’s not every day that an American audience gets to see a touch of British comedy tradition acted out on stage.  Such is the case with Playcrafters’ ‘ALLO ‘ALLO, based on the BBC broadcast British sitcom that ran from 1982 to 1992 and which many Americans have never heard of.  As director Gay Hoyle puts it, “Our U.S. cousins got to know The Benny Hill Show, Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances, but ‘Allo ‘Alloseems to have almost passed you by.”

The raunchy ‘ALLO ‘ALLO takes place in France during World War II and is set in Rene’s (Anthony Marsala) café.  Set designer Ed Rutter wisely keeps things simple, focusing on just a few simple restaurant props to allow the action to revolve around it.  Rene is unhappily married to “aspiring” singer Edith (Michelle Quigley) but is having affairs with others.  He is also harboring British airmen in his basement and hiding a painting that the Nazis wish to keep for themselves (the name being…well, look it up if you’re that interested).  Michelle (Alexis Ross) and the bloodthirsty Mimi (Christina Zick) are both members of the Resistance.  Michelle is known for her repeated use of the line “Listen very carefully, I shall say ‘zis only once” as well as her ridiculous spy disguises trying to “blend in.”  Various German characters, Col. Von Strohm (Woody Hale), Helga (Christine Martuscello), Herr Flick (Gunter Moeller), the over-the-top Lt. Gruber (Philip Seader), and Gen. Von Schmelling (Kurt Shaffer), are all involved in the ridiculous, shady goings-on at Rene’s café.  The Italian Capt. Bertorelli (Dinesh Pethiyagoda), known for the Laugh In like-line “What a mistake-a to make-a”, the hilarious Englishman trying to fake a French accent Crabtree (Dave Leva), waitress Yvette (Amy Peart), “Cockatoo” Leclerc (Lawrence Geller), and the airman/piano player (Ken Uller) also join in on the fun.

While the humor wasn’t exactly my cup of “tea” (my lame excuse for a British joke), ‘ALLO ‘ALLO had much of the audience laughing in all the right places.  The second act, to me, was much funnier than the first, especially the not-so-innocent movie scene between Helga and Capt. Bertorelli. However, the person who really made that scene was Moeller, dressed as a German waitress.  He stole every scene he was in (especially the 1-move tango he so confidently performed).  Martuscello, Quigley, and Pethiyagoda were all appropriately “yuk-yuk” with the audience; however, I would have liked to have seen Edith’s big cabaret number performed with more pizazz.

If you don’t mind a lot of farce and sexual innuendos in your theater experience, give ‘ALLO ‘ALLO a try!

by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft
Directed by Gay Hoyle
September 20-October 6, 2012
Playcrafters of Skippack
2011 Store Road
Skippack, PA


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