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'Adrift In Macao' Is a Tsunami of a Musical Comedy!

By George Linkletter, Citizen News


From the moment you hear the clever, pre-curtain announcement to turn off your cell phones -– presented in the film noir style parodied so adroitly throughout Adrift in Macao -– you'll suspect you're in for a fun evening.

And you are. Virtually every aspect of this 90-minute, one-act musical spoof of the hugely popular and entertaining 'dark' Hollywood genre -- made famous 70 years ago by film classics such as The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity -- is just plain fun!

In fact, "adrift" may be the perfect word of advice for the audience: just sit back, relax and enjoy where this fast-paced ThreatreWorks of New Milford production takes you.  The script is loaded to the gunnels with hilarity -- silly jokes, stock characters, catchy tunes and funny lyrics -- that will make anyone laugh.

The setting is the seedy side of Macao, China in 1952.  Everyone seems to be waiting for something, and though none of them knows exactly what that is, they hang around to find out.  The characters include film noir standards, like Lureena, a curvaceous blonde who luckily bumps into Rick Shaw, the cynical surf-and-turf casino owner on her first night in town.

Then along comes Mitch, an American who has been framed for murder by the mysterious villain "Mr. McGuffin."  Rounding out the key characters are Corinna, a sexy, worldly and raven-haired beauty who is bumped aside as the nightclub's singer by Lurenna; and Tempura, Shaw's assistant who helps run the club and has been "battered by life." 

Jonathan Ross (of Thomaston) plays Rick Shaw, the cynical nightclub/casino owner. An accomplished veteran actor with more than 25 roles at TheatreWorks under his belt, Mr. Ross uses his finely honed acting skills to make his Humphrey Bogart-style character both real and humorous.

Shannon-Courtney Denihan (Woodbury) portrays Lureena, the curvaceous blonde singer who dreams of working in a New York City nightclub. Ms. Dehihan aptly displays her character with a girl-next-door naivete. She is also blessed with a powerful and enviable singing voice that could earn her a credible living as a real-life nightclub singer.

Vicki Sosbe (New Milford) is delightful as Corinna, the alluring, raven-haired nightclub singer. Ms. Sosbe is masterful in her role as she interacts with men, copes with her sudden demotion from star attraction to mere companion for gamblers, and displays her comedic addiction to one Asia's most exotic vices.

There are more than a dozen songs in this entertaining production, but just one –- a sort of 'battle of the divas' between Lurenna and Corinna -- is worth the price of admission alone.

Tom Libonate (Danbury) is Tempura, the Chinese aide to club/casino owner Rick Shaw. Mr. Libonate has immense energy and enthusiasm and portrays his character as if born to the role. Which makes his unexpected transformation near the end of the play all the more surprising and enjoyable.

Tom Denihan (Woodbury) portrays Mitch, the American framed for murder by the mysterious and unseen McGuffin.  Mr. Denihan is an accomplished and well-known local actor who plays the beleaguered Mitch expertly. His monologue, when re-telling his 'short story,' is great entertainment.

If you need just a single reason to see this production, it might well be this: direction, set design, choreography, and musical direction are all handled by local legend Bradford Blake of Danbury. Mr. Blake is a giant in community theater in our area. Betting on his efforts is as close as you can get to a sure thing.

Another interesting facet of this particular production is the fact that six of the seven actors on stage are married to each other. That might explain part of the joy they display in working with one another.

Also of note is the work of the lighting design team of Richard Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski.  The entire stage is set in black and white, so lighting is critical as it enhances the ambiance as well as provides much needed variety and emphasis. Despite a few opening night glitches, understandable when considering the scope of synching so much lighting in this production, it is a first-rate endeavor.

Adrift in Macao premiered in New York on January 23, 2007 at Primary Stages and was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Best Music. Book and lyrics are by Christopher Durang and music is by Peter Melnick.

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