Playwright Chris Weikel is extremely fortunate to have director Sarah Gazdowicz staging his wacky send-up of classic Dickensian melodrama. PENNY PENYWORTH (cavorting at the Central Sq. Theatre through June 25th) is at its best a mad Monty Pythonesque romp through the English novel (from Dickens to the Brontes)—although at times it dips into choppy Benny Hill waters.
The Titanic Theatre Company’s cast is plenty seaworthy when it comes to comedy: the foursome inhabits dozens of characters with ease (or so it seems), from mustache twirling villains to spluttering, stuttering emissaries to rattling, raving recluses. Caroline Keeler is wonderful as the hapless, penniless child who must navigate a world of sleazy opportunists and ruthless predators. (And as is wont to happen when actors double and triple roles, Keeler has been assigned to play the very henchman sent to kidnap her!)
Isaiah Plovnick seems to be made of rubber as he contorts his body so that Mr. Pinch Nose’s upper half arrives before his extremities. He can chew the small amount of scenery on stage so thoroughly that you worry about his digestive system. Ashley Risteen gives Plovnick a run for his money in that department with her spectacular performance as the delirious, possibly dangerous Miss Havasnort but it’s Brooks Reeves’ smashing portrayal of a humble, unintelligible Scotsman that brings down the house.
Kudos to Erica Desautels for her inventive, evocative costume design and to Gazdowicz for her extravagantly dramatic sound design, expertly delivered by stage manager Sophia Girodano.