The Punsters Strike Again 

Prairie Dog sets sail on the high seas

Ahoy and avast, me hearties! Batten down the hatches. Those crazy Prairie Dog Players are back again, this time with an ocean voyage in Pirates of the Caribbean or The Curse of Montezuma's Revenge. As usual, the audience has its part to play, as instructed by the irrepressible Gary Winterholler, singing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" while bouncing up and down, booing villains, cheering heroes and singing the final "Happy Trails to You" along with the cast.

It's hard not to have a good time at Prairie Dog shows, even if you're a grinch like me, who thinks puns are the lowest form of humor. The cast members are always so all-fired cheerful and enthusiastic while singing and dancing to the most outrageous songs and parodies, and the storylines are so improbable and silly that you have to laugh at the sheer cheekiness.

Director Cammie Pavesic gets us off to a rousing start with the ship's motley crew singing "A Pirate's Life for Me." Then we plunge into the mishmash of creatively goofy costumes by Chimena Cole, magical curses, giants, treasure and outrageous steals from movies and Broadway. The maddest costume award goes to Kami Carpentier, a fiesty little comedienne who proved her talent in roles at The Actors' Guild in Garden City. As Tinkle the Bell, Carpentier wears a patina of gold and a costume enhanced with gauzy wings, which makes her tough pirate poses very funny.

Tate S. McCullough is a triple threat in this show. He is the writer of the play, the pirates' Captain Teneel and also plays the Elvis role, an obligatory presence in every Prairie Dog production. Frederick Scott is splendid as Captain Jack in his plumed hat and cockney accent, trying to get his ship back from the treasure-hunting pirates. The glamour and feminine sparkle for the evening are provided by Lady Gillette, (Sarafina Rodriguez) perky in purple with her saucy curls bouncing, and the tall, exotic Elizabeth (Leta Nuestaedter) with her soulful eyes and dazzling smile. Rodriguez displays slick musical comedy style as she energetically sings and dances with the dashing and love-struck Chuck (Jeremy W. Olsen).

Other crew members are humorously portrayed by Winterholler as Mr. Schmee; Truman Bishop as One Eyed Bill and Michael Murphy as Black Eyed Will.

The pianist, Musical Director J. Drew, provides peppy scene emphasis along with the feel of silent movies and melodramas, and the set design and painting by Anne Edwards is exceptional, with bright, gaudy colors and comic book styles. The backdrop for the dark cavern scene is especially impressive with its skeletons and gold spilling from treasure chests in the gloomy cave.

One problem with this show, and others at PDP, is the acoustics. With the rapid-fire pace and constant action, sometimes it is hard to catch all the jokes and puns (be grateful, you fool) in the dialogue.

But if you can't hear, you can eat, so belly up to the bar and chow down on pizza, soft drinks, hot dogs, chips, popcorn (50 cents--this is no gouging movie theater) and sweets. Tasty treats at reasonable prices. Definitely Happy Trails for all.

Pirates of the Caribbean or The Curse of Montezuma's Revenge

Written by Tate S. McCullough, directed by Cammie Pavesic

7:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through October 30; doors at 6:45 p.m.

Prairie Dog Playhouse, The Alano, 3820 Cassia (at Latah)

$10 adults; $8 seniors/students; $6 children 12 and under

Reservations at 336-7383 or reservations@pdplayhouse.com

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