Weiner, Pirate and Bust: “A Confederacy of Dunces”

Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company
Written by Jeffrey Hatcher
Based on the novel by John Kennedy Toole
Directed by David Esbjornson
Original music by Mark Bennett
Music direction by Wayne Barker

Nov. 11 – Dec. 20, 2015
Avenue of the Arts
Boston, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) I did not enjoy A Confederacy of Dunces. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good theatre. Let’s discuss.

This play is like a 1960’s version of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court if the Yankee was actually J. Wellington Wimpy from Popeye. In this picaresque burlesque, our anti-hero Ignatius J. Riley (Nick Offerman) endeavors to get a job even though he is 30, holds several college degrees but has no work experience. He’s crude, ill-mannered, irresponsible, and has troubling gastrointestinal problems (he farts so very much). Things do not go well for anyone.

Jeffrey Hatcher has written a good script. It’s chewy and effective.

Nick Offerman is a hoot. He’s great. Please promote the Huntington and Offerman’s career by seeing this show.

Supporting actors Paul Melendy (Mancuso), Anita Gillette (the long suffering Mamma Reilly) and Julie Halston (Miss Trixie) do excellent work. Halston in particular is hilarious as Miss Trixie.

I’m told that the costuming was loyal to the original novel. Good for you Michael Krass and the costume design dept.!

The good people in charge of sound were working overtime on Saturday afternoon. The design by Mark Bennett and Charles Coes was creative and fun but the person in charge of responding to visual cues went above and beyond the call of duty. Props weren’t used in this show. The actors mimed props and the finger on the button in the booth developed a keen relationship with the actors to get cue timing just right. It was deeply impressive.

Dunces takes place in New Orleans. The programme and other supporting informational materials infer that the production is greatly influenced by the city’s culture and people. From the audience, you wouldn’t know it. Aside from the truly excellent accent work from the cast, New Orleans isn’t given much of a physical presence in the production. The set and lighting does nothing to establish the city’s unique character. The exceptional musicality, and chutzpah of trombonist David L. Harris lends itself more to the temperament of the play than to its environment. This show could have occurred anywhere in the South.

A Confederacy of Dunces was not my cup of tea: I’m not a huge fan of stories that glorify bullying at the expense of well-intentioned bystanders trying to live as best they can. Classic literature be damned, Ignatius J. Riley is a dick; a selfish, stubborn, gigantic child. His horrendous behavior doesn’t warrant the kind of validation a three hour play grants him. But that’s me. If this is your thing, you do you. Enjoy.

While I have your attention, did you know that BU and the Huntington are parting ways? Boston University has decided to sell its Huntington properties after 30 fun years. As far as donors, subscribers and Joe Public knows, the Huntington could be turned into condos. That would be a DAMN shame. Who knows what will happen to their Apprentice Program? Will BU students get a full sized theater to perform in or is BU happy with their concert hall and black boxes? Were the Boston theatre community to receive regular updates, we could rally for the Huntington. Keeping us abreast of new developments means we can support positive change as well as protest community-affecting negative changes. We want to help you. Please let us.

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