Dec 5, 2013

[Theater] The Addams Family (Atlantis Productions)

This year's show line-up from Atlantis Productions was rather disappointing, I have to admit. The whole Viva-Atlantis partnership seemed rather pointless to me and the shows that they had actually chosen for the year didn't exactly pique my interesting.

Initially we had no intentions of watching The Addams Family when the news first broke up. But seeing K-La Rivera's performance in Carrie helped sway us and convinced us to support her theater career by seeing this show. I have to admit, the girl can sing.

I was never exactly a big fan of The Addams Family, whether as a cartoon or as a weird movies franchise. But the series still had its moments and I'd be lying if I said that the show never made me smile a few times. The humor was always rather oddball and morbid, which is sort of the thing that seems a heck of a lot more interesting when you're a kid.

This local staging of a very American play was funny enough, but there were certain gaps that sort of irked me over time. And my gripes involve more than just the fact that they were all out of programs on the day we watched the show. I really like collecting theater programs, too.

Synopsis: The Addams Family is a musical production based on the characters created by Charles Addams. The Atlantis Productions staging of the show was directed by Bobby Garcia and ran from November 15 - December 1, 2013 at the Meralco Theater.

The show opens with the full Addams Family celebrating being an Addams at the graveyard. They proceed to wake the dead in order to get the full family involved in the celebrations. Uncle Fester (Jamie Wilson) acts as the sort of narrator of the show given he addresses the audience directly, and also works to support the whole narrative in his own way. He somehow locks the Addams family crypt, thus forcing the spirits to help him with Wednesday (K-La Rivera) and her budding romance with the rather normal Lucas (Ryan Gallager).

In addition, Wednesday swears her father, Gomez (Arnel Ignacio) to secrecy about the fact that Lucas has already proposed to her and she has accepted. But given Gomez has never kept a secret from his wife, Morticia (Eula Valdez) and thus the pressure mounts. Things get even more complicated with the fact that Wednesday has already invited Lucas and his parents over for dinner so the two families can get to know one another better. This is part of her efforts to see if their families will get along given the inevitable marriage.

The show is pretty funny on the whole given the generous mix of witty dialog, sight gags and some pretty adorable props. Even though the script is largely tailored to an American audience with the references to pop culture and even bi-partisan politics, but the cast managed to carry things well enough. Each had their moments of nicely celebrating the classic Addams characters that they were portraying.

But consistency was not all that great here and the need to maintain accents and even just stay in character that didn't work out. And the way that the various actors interpreted the characters didn't feel quite right to me. You can start with Gomez and Morticia having little to no chemistry together. And for some reason Gomez barely touches the woman he's supposed to adore. In all other versions of the character, he's constantly smothering Morticia with loving embraces and kisses up and down her arms. We just don't see that here. And Morticia always had a flair for being classy without needing to push her acting to an extreme level. Here Eula's movements were a little exaggerated and not quite as in-control as other versions of her have been.

And then Wednesday is not Wednesday. And in this case I'm not sure if one should blame how the original production was written (the Wednesday engagement was rather central to the whole plot), how K-La portrayed her or how she was directed to do so. Sure, I love her singing ability and she continues to grow as a theater actress, but her Wednesday didn't feel like the character that we had fallen in love with over the years.

And I don't even get why they decided to cast a guy as Grandma. This sort of thing does happen in some shows and it's typically part of the humor (think Hairspray). But there didn't seem to be a good reason to do that here and it just felt a little awkward. There was no fooling any of us that he was, in truth, a guy.

Part of my initial hesitation to watch the show was the fact that listening to the OST of the Broadway production didn't exactly excite me. There are a lot of songs that just felt odd and downright lame at times. And true enough, the show's songs were a mixed bag of the humorous and the awkward. Tie that together with the weird plot and the awkward scenes introduced just for the sake of giving the crew time to arrange the set (typically involving Uncle Fester or something), the show has a lot of painful moments apart from the genuine comedy sequences.

The Addams Family was an okay production, but I don't know if the rather adult humor merited the full Meralco Theater in terms of capacity (as compared to the RCBC theater). It just felt like the cast and crew didn't have a 100% understanding of the history of these characters and it just continues to showcase how we seem to be unable to localize shows to better fit audiences around here. The show only rates about 3 weird reasons to have the Addams ghosts on-stage out of a possible 5.
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