Presented by The Hypocrites
By Gilbert and Sullivan
Directed and Adapted by Sean Graney
Review by Danielle Rosvally
(Cambridge, MA) Hold onto your hats, the Hypocrites are back at the Oberon. The Mikado is alive, vivacious, and everything a modern audience could ask for from Gilbert and Sullivan unplugged.
Fans of the Hypocrites’ smash success with The Pirates of Penzance will be familiar with the company’s style: surround-sound self-accompanied acoustic performance in which the strolling layout of the Oberon simultaneously embraces audience and performer. If you’re in the General Admission section, I’d highly recommend checking your coat and coming to the show bag-free; you will be moving around, among, in, and on top of the actors and sets over the course of the evening.
The Hypocrites know how to manage their levels. Since the audience sits or stands amidst the performance “pit”, the company has taken clever arrangements to array themselves such that actors might always be both seen and heard. Except, of course, when they sneak up behind you and implant themselves amongst you and you suddenly have no idea why there seems to be a banjo twanging to soprano harmony wafting over your shoulder.
The multi-talented cast accompanies themselves on an array of instruments from ukulele, numerous guitars, flute, violin, and snare drum to the more rustic and exotic musical spoons, washboard, and saw. As though playing a full orchestra weren’t enough, the company also manages the notoriously tricky verbiage of W.S. Gilbert with gusto and flare. It is difficult to pin-point a particularly strong cast member (since the ensemble is so tight), but I can say with some surety that Shawn Pfautsch as Katisha allowed me to both create and enact a bucket list item in one night. Truly, if you’ve ever desired to assault a beleaguered cross-dresser with balloons while being serenaded by a musical saw without fear of repercussion (….it makes a lot more sense in the context of the play), you have got to get to Oberon quickly.
Creative double-casting allows the audience to laugh because the Mikado can never meet his new daughter in law, nor can Katisha and Nanki-Poo ever be united as one (except for the fact that they are… you know… united as one). The Hypocrites’ house style also allows the audience to revel in the fact that we don’t live in a nation haunted by a semi-benevolent ruler who wanders the countryside terrorizing peasants with his sub-par tromboning skills while simultaneously exacting praise for his brass. It’s the simple things, really.
This production is colorful and alive; it’s a great introduction to Gilbert and Sullivan for the young or the young-at-heart. The Mikado is definitely a family-friendly show (unlike Oberon’s usual raucous offerings). Seriously; go see it. Maybe if they get enough audiences, we’ll be able to lure them back with a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore…. And then maybe we’ll be able to trap them in our Boston clutches and never let them go back to Chicago… a reviewer can dream, right?