The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle 

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THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE, Griffin Theatre Company. Simply duplicating Jay Ward's animated series onstage might sound redundant, but sending up something so pervaded by irony would be sillier still. Adapter William Massolia ably echoes the TV show's verbal style and narrative conventions, and director Richard A. Barletta bends his cast into appropriately two-dimensional shapes reinforced by cartoonish makeup, costumes, and set. Though the incessant literality limits (and sometimes utterly hamstrings) this compulsively faithful reproduction--as inherently pointless as a Flintstones movie--it's a sensible choice given the crazily self-referential source.

The actors' skill and infectious zeal take this Rocky and Bullwinkle a long way. Scenes work best when the performers' impressions are in perfect focus, as in Angelina Martinez and Mark Schab's knockout "Sherman & Peabody" segment; Charles Karvelas and Karyn Morris's uncannily accurate Boris and Natasha likewise nearly steal the show. But Barletta's attempt to translate pure animation effects--oddly changeless cartoon facial expressions, the device of "cutting" between such nonreaction shots--into blank profferings of the characters as scenery merely generates a thicket of empty dramatic pauses. At best a minor annoyance, at worst they undermine the otherwise well-played moose and squirrel (Matthew Walker and Kenda Hallmann) and contribute to a late breakdown in pacing. On the whole, however, the ensemble's charisma and precision make this a sugar-frosted hour or so of engrossing if disposable fun.

--Brian Nemtusak

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