ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT may not be one of the more well known comedies in theatre. But it really should be. I fell in love with the show when I saw a condensed version of it as an entry in a national festival. So when I heard that it was being staged at the Everett Theatre in Middletown, Delaware I was thrilled!
ESCANABA is written by noted movie and TV actor Jeff Daniels (“Dumb and Dumber”, “The Newsroom” and many others). It is set in a hunting cabin in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of the “Superior State”, Michigan. The cabin is a ritualistic meeting spot for the Soady family annually at the start of the hunting season. The Soadys are “UPers” or “Yoopers”. In short, locals.
If all of this sounds a little dull, you’ll be surprised. Strange things happen in the UP. Before the show is through it involves legendary bucks, Native American potions and chants, UFOs and the bare arms of the law! Believe me when I say….it’s a real gas.
The patriarch of this colorful family is Albert Soady played ably by Bill Campbell. Campbell’s unassuming yet still commanding presence sets the tone for the show nicely. He is also called upon to break the fourth wall to keep the audience in the loop and Campbell does this well and quite humorously.
Albert has two sons, Reuben (Bo White) and Remnar (Tom Trietley). Reuben has yet to bag a buck, and at 35, is in danger of becoming the oldest Soady to not have yet brought one home. This has led to a belief by him and his family that he is cursed. White handles this role well. Reuben becomes downright neurotic at times and White brings those little neuroses to life. Remnar on the other hand is an old hat at this hunting thing but that has also made him extremely superstitious. Trietley is so believable in that role. And while I am not an expert on UP accents, I feel Trietley’s to be the most believable character of all. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance.
Filling out the hunting party is family friend, Jimmer Negamanee (David Hastings). A legendary hunter, drinker, flatulence machine and alien abduction survivor, Jimmer also has a speech impediment, a present from the aliens. Hasting’s characterization is so hysterically funny. How could you not love the Jimmer? Some of the funny physical comedy side bits he has going on are classic.
Rounding out the cast are Ranger Tom (Aaron Tanzer) and Wolf Moon Dance (Jennifer Bruce). Ranger Tom stumbles into the cabin after his own other worldly encounter, providing additional comic relief to an already funny show. Wolf Moon Dance, Reuben’s Native American wife, makes an appearance at the end of the show to tie up a lot of loose ends. Bruce certainly has a way of captivating the audience even in her brief time on stage.
The only negative comment I would make would be on the pacing and energy in Act I. However, the night I saw the show had a relatively quiet audience. They were laughing like crazy but in a quiet way. When doing a wildly comic show like ESCANABA, the actors count on audience feedback for energy. So when you go to see this show, and you most definitely should, don’t be afraid to laugh out loud!
Director Marsha L. Amato-Greenspan has done a wonderful job bringing this show to life on the stage of the Everett. Kudos also go out to Set Designer David Sokolowski for putting together such a realistic hunting cabin. I wanted to go up there and crawl in one of the bunks myself! The one closest to the wood burning stove of course!
The running time of the show is one hour and 45 minutes. The show is fairly clean and pretty much appropriate for all ages. However, younger kids will miss much of the humor and may become bored. So keep that in mind. But I can guarantee you will not be bored with ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT! Go out and see this one while you can!
ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT
by Jeff Daniels
Directed by Marsha L. Amato-Greenspan
February 15 – 24, 2013
47 W. Main Street
Middletown, DE 19709