By Becky Evans
Written by Woody Allen, Centerpoint’s Don’t Drink the Water is a hilarious play that makes audiences laugh out loud. As a Gilmore Girls fan, I loved that the script is chock full of subtle, witty nods to history and politics as well as wordplay that you might miss if you aren’t paying close attention. It was fun to sit and listen to the audience chuckle as the jokes would wash over them, with some audience members getting the jokes before others.
In her directorial debut, Carissa Klitgaard does a phenomenal job keeping the play moving and telling a story in a way that is full of depth and bring out the idiosyncrasies in each character. This show is produced in the Leishman Performance Hall, which is the smaller black box theatre at CenterPoint. The theatre has new seats this year with assigned seating, which is very nice. If you are large in stature or want leg room, like my husband, try and get a seat on an aisle or on the front row.
Don’t Drink the Water is about a family from New Jersey who are vacationing in Europe somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. While innocently taking photos, they are mistaken for spies and forced to seek refuge in the U.S. Embassy. While at the embassy, Walter Hollander (Jeffrey Owen) makes things worse with his shenanigans by insulting a foreign dignitary and the intimidating head of the Communist police force (Darren Maxfield).
Owen’s acting carries the show, thanks to his flawless accent and the character’s whiny personality that always digs him into deeper mischief. Linda Jean Stephenson plays Marion Hollander and also has a perfect Jersey accent. Her character is so real that I felt like she was my distantly related aunt. She creates the perfect marriage of sarcastic wife and devoted mother. As their daughter, Mahaley Hansen is a blend of sweet, sassy, innocent, and flirty. I loved the subtle looks Hansen gives to Axel McGee (J. Caleb Morris), the bumbling and anxious director of the U.S. Embassy. Morris is great at playing the nervous underdog that can’t do anything right.
The play is narrated by Father Drobney (Richard Judd), who has a beautiful accent and introduces each character. Besides being of the cloth, Father Drobney has some magical skills, and he knows how to escape from a locked-down embassy. Judd was so convincing that after the play, some audience members were genuinely surprised that his accent was not native.
One of my favorite characters is Kilroy played by Kellie Chapman. Kilroy acts as Mr. McGee’s assistant, but the audience knows she’s the one who really runs the show at the Embassy. She delivers some snarky one-liners and condescending comebacks that help add interest, humor, and dimension. All of the additional cast members (Jennifer Beckstrand, Marinda Maxfield, Mark Andrus, and Raquel Davis) also help to tell the story and move the show along. Each cast member makes the most of his or her time onstage and develops and stays true to a fleshed-out performance throughout the play.
I especially liked the way the production company arranged the scene changes: Rather than a regular blackout, characters come out and interact with the set. The audience was kept wondering questions such as, “Why is Burns carrying a watermelon or a bed-pan across the stage?” The lighting by Jordan Fowler and special effects and sound by Derek Walden set the scene and add to the excitement without being distracting. The costumes designed by Tammis Boam are eye candy, both exciting and colorful.
Don’t Drink the Water is an enjoyable night of wit and banter. If you haven’t seen it, get your tickets soon because they sell out quickly. If you have seen it before, go see it again. I’m sure you will catch something that you didn’t notice the first time, and you will not be disappointed.
CenterPoint Legacy Theatre presents Don’t Drink the Water
525 N 400 W, Centerville, UT 84014
Jan. 11-Feb. 3, Mon, Thurs-Sat 7:00 PM
Contact: 801-298-1302 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday-Saturday
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