The first show of Theatre Project's 20th season is a hilarious turn-of-the-century Russian cabaret style entertainment, "Ah, Cabaret! Ah Cabaret!," presented by Theatre Buffo of Leningrad, an outstanding professional troupe of young clowns, musicians and singers.
These highly trained Soviet artists (all are accomplished
musicians) are under the precise direction of Isaak Shtockbant, an acclaimed director and teacher in the Soviet Union. (Buffo is Italian for clown).
The five amazing men and four women engage in a skillful cacophony of sounds, warble songs -- some sung resoundingly in Russian -- burlesque traditional dances and perform perfectly timed Russian vaudevillian skits. Whether speaking in Russian or English their wonderful humor is universal.
Gennady Vetrov is the jovial clown-emcee who keeps things rolling at a speedy pace and who, early on, establishes a warm, self-deprecating rapport with the audience. A multifaceted musician, he performs an incredible one-man band segment in which he plays the "Saber Dance" on the accordion while crashing cymbals attached to his knees, knocking castanets on his toes and blowing on a variety of whistles and horns.
Identical twins Alexander and Evgeny Anufriev are excellent guitarists and singers. Big, blond Yury Galtsev floors the audience with his wildly funny acts and imitations of inanimate objects such as a cantankerous washing machine that rejects -- and shreds -- dirty laundry.
Another highlight is the uproarious "John and Mary from Glen Burnie" piece in which Evgeny Rumiantsev disguised in a ludicrous man-woman dummy suit dips and swings and whirls around the stage in emulation of a "typical suburban couple."
Sultry Aliki Usubiani renders a smoldering blues number in French and Elena Spiridonova stops the show with what she says is "her favorite capitalist song" (ala Janis Joplin), "Oh, Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz."
Nastia Smolina is the other talented member of the group and Elena Bulanova expertly accompanies the variety of numbers.
This is a terrifically funny show for the whole family. "Ah, Cabaret! Ah, Cabaret!" runs through Sunday.
*To launch their 75th anniversary season, the Vagabond Players are staging a fairly decent version of "The Heiress," a drama by Ruth and Augustus Goetz based on the novel, "Washington Square" by Henry James, through Oct. 14.
This is a period piece set in 1850, when fathers and husbands controlled women's lives and fortunes. It is a dark, psychological work that explores the dangerous corners of the mind.
An affluent, neurotic father, played interestingly with thin-lipped contempt by Vince Kimbal, cruelly suppresses his plain daughter, performed with shy gentleness by Kathy Foit Sewell, whose birth he blames for his beloved wife's death.
A dashing fortune hunter, enacted with charming but toneless indifference by Rodney Atkins, enters the scene and it is through him that the heiress seeks her salvation.
Robin Holt has done a nice job of directing the James work but the pace is slow and the actors seem to lack energy. Kimbal, Sewell and Atkins need to imbue their characters with more than surface elements and dig deeply into the psyche for proper motivation and character interaction.
The glue that holds the production together is the outstanding performance by Anne B. Mulligan as a doting aunt living vicariously through others. Fine costumes by Gayanne.
At the awards ceremony for the Ninth Annual Baltimore Playwrights Festival on Monday, the award for best play went to Vince LiCata for "The Fountain of Youth," staged at the Vagabond Theatre. There was a tie for best production. These awards were given to "Fountain of Youth" and Bob Bowie's "Sunset for a Seagull" (Fells Point Corner Theatre).