ON THE RAZZLE is a term the British press use occasionally to describe a celebrity who has drunk (or is about to drink) a considerable amount of alcohol. In Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of the old Viennese play “Einen Jux will er sich Machen” by Johann Nestroy, the characters pretend to be celebrities, or at least important people as they enjoy the Viennese life. Add cases of mistaken identities, a character that speaks in malapropisms, mistaken orders, slapstick, and (of course) romance, and you have the basis of a very fun evening at Dramateurs at the Barn in Jeffersonville.
Herr Zangler (Steve Schulz) is the proprietor of an upscale grocery store in an Austrian Village. He is preparing to visit his fiancé in Vienna, Mme. Knorr (Nicolette Adams.) He laments the lateness of his tailor (Chris Waters), shouts orders to his servant Gertrud (Gina Szucs Reed), his head shopkeeper Wenberl (Chris Braak) and naïve apprentice Christopher (Laura Watson, in a gender bending role) as he prepares to send his niece Marie (Mary Beth Gries) to his sister-in-law Fraulein Blumenblatt (Gina Szucs Reed again) to keep her from her penniless suitor Sonders (Joe Cataldo.) He hires fast-talking Melchior (Elizabeth McDonald in another gender-bender) to go to Vienna to prepare a special dinner for he and Mme. Knorr, and leaves. Wenberl and Christopher decide to go “on the razzle” in Vienna, and spend much of the rest of the evening hiding from Herr Zangler, romancing the ladies, running, and drinking.
This was a lot of fun to watch. Director Deb Braak kept the action flowing at a very brisk pace, the actors were obviously having a lot of fun and invited the audience to join them. Chris Braak was delightfully sneaky as Wenberl, and Jeanine Brothers-Braak shines as Mrs. Fischer, the friend to Mme. Knorr who is roped into pretending she is Wenberl’s new wife. McDonald is a fast-talking shyster as Melchior, and Watson is charmingly naïve as Christopher. Schultz in his bio states he has a history of playing pompous, arrogant characters and uses this acquired skill well as Herr Zangler.
The set is minimal, which allows for brisk changes, yet does not distract from the action. The choreography of the second act is delightful, with characters moving quickly in and out of the action “avoiding” capture and confusing no one and everyone simultaneously, to the audiences’ delight. Costumes were beautifully rendered and very functional when needed.
This was a wonderfully silly night of theatre. I wonder about the use of females in male roles, but aside from a segment in the third act where a male actor would have made the plot line even sillier it did not distract. In fact, the actors were both wonderful in their roles, and I enjoyed watching them quite a bit. The play is not very well known, but is well worth the evening to go ON THE RAZZLE.
ON THE RAZZLE
Comedic Farce by Tom Stoppard
Based on the play “Einen Jux will er sich machen” by Johann Nestroy
Directed by Deb Braak
October 3-12, 2014
Dramateurs at the Barn
Rittenhouse Blvd, Norristown PA 19403