Don't Drink the Water | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Don't Drink the Water 

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DON'T DRINK THE WATER, TinFish Theatre. Woody Allen was only 31 when this comedy--his first full-length play--opened on Broadway in 1966. And you can see his youth and inexperience in its every facet, from the stereotypical characters to the contrived plot to the gag-driven dialogue. The premise is worthy of a bad sitcom: a family of Ugly American tourists--plus a beautiful daughter--flee to the wackiest American embassy in eastern Europe after they're accused of being spies. Allen dreams up various obvious twists to keep the story going, including two attempts by the family to sneak out in disguise, lots of shtick with guns and bombs, and an unbelievable romantic subplot unworthy of the man who made Annie Hall and Manhattan. (But then a lot of what he's done since has been unworthy of him too.)

Still, Allen's early exercise in Neil Simon-style comedy deserves better than it gets in this tin-eared production by TinFish. Mitch Golob doesn't have a clue how to direct a comedy--the show is alternately too fast and way too slow--and he's filled it with lots of lame performers who fight Allen's material at every turn, telegraphing punch lines that should be delivered as subtle quips, underplaying Allen's more obvious comic moments, and generally making this flawed script even worse than it is. --Jack Helbig

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