Opening night audiences at Milburn Stone Theater (MST) at Cecil College in North East, MD, were provided with an early Halloween event. THE ADDAMS FAMILY treats their audiences to everything they expect from the iconic clicking theme to fleeting glimpses of Thing and Cousin Itt. While the TV show had the Addams’ being blissfully unaware of their abnormal behaviors, this musical has them recognize their differences; and the plot revolves entirely around their need to decide whether they will “allow” an outsider to join their family.
Directed by S. Lee Lewis, MST does an admirable job in bringing the cast and crew to a high level of performance. Lewis collaborated with Marie Bankerd for costumes/wig/hair designs to keep everyone looking appropriately ghastly and so off-putting that the appearance of any color or costume that was “normal” seemed totally out of place in the Addams home. The ashen costumes of the ancestors were especially clever as each one from Cro-Magnon to Eisenhower-era had costume pieces unique enough to identify their ancestral period with everything is a pearlescent tone keeping them safely away from any thought of zombies. The set of imposing shapes, dormers, iron railings, a ghastly crypt and a sweeping staircase made visible with careful, low level and yet impactful lighting kept the action moving. A use of spotlights during songs was a lovely touch as there was no fourth wall in this production, and the characters felt quite at ease including the audience in what was happening on stage.
In any production which has preceding turns in other media, there are expectations. MST does not disappoint. One cannot think of THE ADDAMS FAMILY without seeing the imposing, stealthy, silent figure of Lurch. A newcomer to MST, Ethan Knettler, had nothing to fear as his Lurch was on the money, theatrically speaking. Ryan DeVoe, as Gomez Addams, incorporates the comedic timing of Nathan Lane, the physical antics of John Astin and the Spanish accent of Raul Julia to bring Gomez to life. DeVoe portrays a loving father and an enthusiastic head of the family. DeVoe’s Gomez is committed to his much more macabre wife, Morticia, played with elegance by Erika Bankerd. Bankerd almost makes cutting the heads off of flowers and feeding them to an Audrey-type plant seem normal. The DeVoe and Bankerd scenes contain their passion for each other; their parental scenes are a little flatter. Lewis keeps the pace racing and the scenes flowing so there is little time to wish for more. The relationship and problem solving occurring between Wednesday and Lucas Beineke are played with good levels of believability and humor by Lyndie Moe and Codey Odachowski. Bratty little brother, Pugsley, is done to a turn by Grant Bailey. Bailey stays perfectly authentic as he screams while being tortured by his sister or as he laments his expected loss of her torments. Uncle Fester is played with unabashed bravura by Lance Bankerd. As Fester, Bankerd literally prances around the stage while serving as emcee; and his song of love to the moon in Act Two brought well deserved audience applause. The characters of Lucas’s parents, Alice and Mal Beineke, present the only theatrical arcs of the evening. They arrive in uptight suburban fashion played with plaintiveness and rigor by Rebekah Latshaw and Dane Hutchinson, respectively. By the end of their evening with the family and aided by the Full Disclosure game, Latshaw and Hutchinson show us the “before” personae of the Beinekes, who are found to be much more compatible with the likes of THE ADDAMS FAMLY.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY received mixed reviews everywhere it has been done. With that said, houses have been full. That seems to be a combination of the impact these weird characters have and the eagerness of audiences to spend time with them. This script doesn’t allow the family’s weird idiosyncrasies to be taken to higher theatrical levels, but it is filled with enough reminders to satisfy expectations and enough new material to make a return visit enjoyable. The music is not award winning, and the MST sound and microphone gremlins returned making hearing the clever lyrics a challenge. With all of this said MST still brings a production that satisfies and entertains. An evening well worth your time and money!
THE ADDAMS FAMILY
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Directed by S. Lee Lewis
October 3 – 12, 2014
Milburn Stone Theatre
One Seahawk Drive
North East, MD 21901
Box Office: 410-287-1037