ART/Hypocrites' "Pinafore": Oh Joy, Oh Rapture Foreseen

The Cast of "H.M.S. Pinafore"
(photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)

Never mind the why and wherefore, love can level ranks and therefore you ought to get to Oberon where ART is presenting the Hypocrites' production of “H.M.S. Pinafore” (“or the Lass That Loved a Sailor”) for their third visit. Those of us who were lucky enough to catch their “Mikado” last season (or “Pirates of Penzance” prior to that) should be filled with foreseeable joy and unmodified rapture. This time around, once again, you won't likely be disappointed. From the moment we sail the ocean blue, things are seldom what they seem. With their usual creativity on terra firma, this company continues to delight with its wild, wacky and wonderful approach to the satirical bite of W. S. Gilbert and the musical precision of Arthur Sullivan.

As all of you G. & S. aficionados will recall, in the original libretto, barely do we set off at sea when we encounter the estimable presence of she who is called Little Buttercup, dear Little Buttercup, though she could never tell why. Also aboard is the smartest lad in all the fleet, Ralph Rackstraw, the youth whose faltering feet with difficulty bear him on his course; alas, he loves a lass above his station, one Josephine a maiden fair to see, who bemoans how sorry is her lot who loves too well. Unfortunately for Jack, she's also the daughter of the well-bred Captain of the Pinafore, and a right good captain, too. Complicating matters is the bothersome fact that Josephine is being pursued by another, and not just anyone; he's none other than The Right Honorable Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., who when he was a lad did a lot of polishing of all sorts. Yet Jack, audacious tar that he is, can't refrain from professing his love. How this all gets resolved (in typical G. & S. fashion, of course), with a last-minute revelation, is satire of the highest low level. Note the repeated refrain of the whole cast mimicking Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain, “I can't stand it”.

But wait. This is after all the Hypocrites, masters of dramatic deconstruction. Naturally, (or unnaturally), this company takes the tale several steps further, with gender-bending hilarity (virtually everyone is playing her or his opposite gender) and loving disrespect for the original work. How they do so will remain withheld here (critics having taken the Hypocritic Oath) but suffice it to say that Adapter/Director Sean Graney and Co-Director Thrisa Hodits are at it again, and we're all the better for it. Even if you're a purist, you should be won over by their saucy wit. Even The R.H. Sir Joseph succumbs to the inevitable in the end, for, as he himself hath said it (and it's greatly to his credit), he is an Englishman. Or woman. In any case, the splendiferous cast of suspects includes Doug Pawlik (as Joseph), Dana Omar (Ralphina), Emily Casey (Captain Cat Coran/Sail'ress Bobbi), Christine Stulik (Admiral Dame Jo-Anne Porter /Sail'ress Tiffni), Kate Carson-Groner (Dot Deadeye/Sail'ress Candi), Shawn Pfautsch (Porterman Kev'n), Matt Kahler (Little Buttercup/Porterman Matt), Erik Schroeder (Cousin Heebies) and Erin O'Shea (Sail'ress Billi). While Pawlik and Stulik are standouts, all are just about perfect, even the sail'resses; the fault, dear Brutus, is not in their tars, and in fact there's scant little to fault.

Now give three cheers for the chance to romp and rollick with the Hypocrites again; and never fear, that's not the name of a current political party.

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