Players show lighter side

Comedy: An Annapolis company gives a fanciful performance of "Kid Purple."


Arundel Live

October 28, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Actors, like all of us, need a change of pace once in a while, and so do the theater companies that cast them.

So after several weeks of walking the fine line between genius and madness in David Auburn's intense and volatile play Proof, the folks over at Colonial Players of Annapolis have shifted gears.

Playing through Nov. 20 at the intimate theater-in-the-round just off State Circle in the heart of the capital city's historic district is Donald Wollner's Kid Purple, a quirky and fanciful comedy about an aspiring boxing champion who's purple from the neck up.

The son of an absentee father and a co-dependent mother who thinks nothing of manipulating her purple-faced 5-year-old with visions of law school and heroics a la Teddy Roosevelt, Benjamin "Kid Purple" Schwartz is a social outcast who feels emotional release only when punching a bag.

Mommy, needless to say, is not pleased.

As he grows up, Kid's quest for a championship is joined by fight manager Willie Hogan, who aims to give the boxing its next "Great White Hope" (even one with a purple face), and Kid's sister Michelle, a looney lawyer who plays her brother-turned-meal ticket like a Stradivarius, just like Mamma used to do.

The fighter's requisite distraction comes courtesy of Julie, his childhood heartthrob, who mutates into the adult temptress who threatens Kid's fidelity to the ring - that is when she's not too busy carrying cards around the theater announcing the rounds of Kid's fights (and the scenes of his play).

What hits you before you enter the theater are pictures of the cast drawn expertly in cartoon head shots by local artist James Gallagher.

This is a sign of things to come, for director Mickey Handwerger keeps the ring action coming in cartoonlike interludes, with slapstick reactions from the participants and signs reminiscent of the old Batman TV show ("POW!" "SOCK!" "CRASH!") lighting up as punches are thrown

The actors are only too happy to play up these touches for everything they're worth.

Dean Davis is funny, likable and fully in control as the boxer, especially when he resurrects the childlike demeanor he used to such great effect in Colonial's Blood Brothers (also a Handwerger production) of a few years ago.

Shannon Benil is delightfully manic as Kid's manipulative sister, while Marti Pogonowski proves she can do slapstick with the best of them as the mother who must be seen to be believed, especially in her hilarious re-entry in Act II.

What's especially admirable, though, is that a measure of reality shines through her despite the built-in exaggerations.

Joe McCann, Niji Ramunas and Santos Venturo (a strong Colonial rookie) round out the formidable cast.

Kid Purple is not the most profound play, but it's great fun as Handwerger and Co. bring it off. Besides, Colonial regulars could probably use a walk on the lighter side no less than the company itself.

Tickets: 410-268-7373.

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