Captain Raspberry | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Captain Raspberry 

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CAPTAIN RASPBERRY, Factory Theater, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Matt O'Neill's comedy about an ill-fated 18th-century British naval expedition to the island of Martinique is all the more hysterical for its utter lack of substance. The plot is as insubstantial as they come--the doltish, unimaginative crew of the frigate Holly devote the first half hour to loading three crates of bananas from a passing ship--and any semblance of narrative is routinely interrupted by inconsequential tangents. O'Neill, who directs with Steve Walker, presents this antisaga as a series of museum paintings come to life, each introduced by an officious but know-nothing tour guide who constantly hiccups.

In the tradition of Seinfeld, this is a play about absolutely nothing. But O'Neill's buffoonery is so subtle that even the cheapest jokes--and this play is packed with them--seem fresh. It helps that the ever marvelous Walker as the cloddish, overpuffed Captain Raspberry sets exactly the right tone with his poker-faced underacting. The rest of the cast are close on his heels, rarely raising the unnecessary eyebrow, playing every insipid moment as though it were high drama. With the exception of two lengthy scene changes late in the evening, which coincide with a momentary loss of steam in the script, this is an expertly orchestrated evening that reaches consistent giddy heights.

--Justin Hayford

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