Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
The Addams Family
As TV shows go, The Addams Family was a very odd sort of outlier. Based on Charles Addams's cartoons in The New Yorker, the show ran only two seasons, but was a cult hit and managed to find its way into popular culture, spawning more than one film and a musical that opened on Broadway in 2010, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. A somewhat revised version of that show opened this week in an enjoyable, if uneven, production at Novato Theater Company.
If you're too young to have watched the TV show when it aired in 1964-65, and missed the movies, The Addams Family is composed of the father Gomez (Bruce Vieira), his wife Morticia (Alison Peltz), with whom Gomez is utterly besotted, and their two children, Wednesday (HarriettePearl Fugitt) and Pugsley (Robin Kraft and Milo Ward, with Kraft playing the role on opening night). The extended family includes Gomez's brother Uncle Fester (Pat Barr) and Grandma (Kayla Gold). The Addamses are not your ordinary suburban nuclear family, for they love all things dark, gloomy and mysterious. When Morticia receives flowers, she cuts off the blooms and places the stems in a vase. She dresses in a very slinky floor length black dress. In the opening number, "When You're an Addams," Gomez asks Morticia to tell us "what it is every Addams hopes for," and Morticia proudly replies "darkness, grief, and unspeakable sorrow." "I love it when you talk sexy," is Gomez's instant rejoinder.
The children are just as goth: Wednesday dresses all in black. And though she tortures her little brother Pugsley, what's odd is that Pugsley loves it and begs for more. Then there are the other residents of their Second Empire mansion (not unlike the house in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho): the butler, Lurch (Todd Krish), whose vocalizations are almost entirely moans; Cousin Itt, a walking mass of floor-length hair; and Thing, a disembodied hand that played a more significant role in the TV show, but is only seen once here. And let's not forget the undead "ancestors" who follow the action sort of like a Greek chorus of zombies/ghosts.
Into this rather macabre household come the very normal Beinekes: Mal (David Shirk), Alice (Jane Harrington), and their son Lucas (John Diaz), who has fallen hopelessly in love with Wednesday, after seeing her shooting pigeons in Central Park with her crossbow. The two teenagers are in love, and the Beinekes have been invited to the Addams's home, where Lucas and Wednesday plan to inform their parents of their plans to marry.
At dinner, cultures clash ("We are who we are," says Gomez, "and they are ... from Ohio."), potions are slipped into drinks, truths are spilled, but–ultimately, as is the norm in musical comedy–love conquers all and everyone goes home happy.
The action takes place on Michael Walraven's delightfully dark set, consisting of a large backdrop upstage depicting the Addams's mansion (wonderfully rendered by the painting crew with ghostly trees dripping with Spanish moss), and a two-sided staircase, with plenty of room downstage for the comings and goings of a rather large cast of 20, all of whom seem to be having a terrific time with the darkly funny material.
Though there are some weak voices in the cast and some clunky acting, there are several standouts that make this production worth your time. As Gomez, Bruce Vieira has a big voice, just right for musical theatre, and his expressive eyes roll and glare and generally communicate volumes about his love for his family. Jane Harrington's Alice is another treat, with her appropriately saccharine, sunny disposition that doesn't seem to be fazed by the strangeness of her hosts. HarriettePearl Fugitt has a lovely voice, even if the score doesn't give her many opportunities to show off her belt. Grandma is played with brittle bravado by Kayla Gold, Todd Krish's Lurch is brilliantly dour, and the cast is managed with tremendous skill by director and choreographer Marilyn Izdebski.
The Addams Family runs through October 8, 2023, at Novato Theater Company, 5420 Nave Drive, Novato CA. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 general and $25 for those under 18. For tickets and additional information, please visit www.novatotheatercompany.org or call 415-883-4498.