Wednesday, June 8, 2011

review - Moose on the Loose

CRITIC'S PICK
Moose on the Loose
by Dina Morrone
directed by Peter Flood
Theatre West
through July 10

If you love ethnic comedies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding or more specifically comedies about Italians such as Buon Natale or Moonstruck, you will love Moose on the Loose, now getting a world premiere engagement at Theatre West. It boasts comedically keen direction and a cast as tightly knit as the Italian clan they are portraying. Adding to the appeal is the setting. These Italians live smack dab in the hinterlands of Canada, so if the Italian jokes aren't enough to whet your appetite, the Canadian jabs surely will. Politically correct? Hardly! Hysterically funny? You bet!
With a meager plot, Moose on the Loose is pretty much a character study. Like most Italian clans this family tries desperately to hold on to all of its members via traditional values - la famiglia - but the younger, hipper siblings are less likely to heed their parents' (John Cygan and Constance Mellors) or Noni's (Jack Kutcher and Laura James) advice. There are two sons Bruno (Johnny Ferretti) and Joseph (Nick McDow) and two daughters Gina (Dina Morrone, also playwright) and Carmela (Corinne Shor). Carmela, the married daughter with a mousy husband Darryl (Michael Lorre) and son Timothy (Grant Venable), is an immeasurable whiner and Gina, a marketing expert who travels around the globe, is the black sheep of the family. She's come home for a year solely because she's pregnant. Unmarried and pregnant in a traditional Italian family? Unheard of! The boys are not without their problems either. Joseph wants to be a nurse and couch potato Bruno introduces a new girlfriend (Jemma Bosch), who is of Native American descent. Warning: Never bring home a possible mate who is not Italian! Like all families, these folks sit around daily and argue and get on each other's nerves while they're waiting for the meatballs, so these new issues only intensify the confrontations. Italians seem to thrive on them! Add to this portrait a moose on the loose (Eric Allan Kramer, who also plays the blase chief of police), wandering around the neighborhood backyards and scaring residents. An alien to these parts, the moose is not unlike the Italians who first came to Ontario because they could not find work in their own country. They are emotionally lost, out of place and may never adjust. High time for a change!

The entire cast under Peter Flood's finely paced direction are terrific. As in most ethnic shows, the grandparents tear up the scenery, so Kutcher and James cannot be overlooked as standouts, but equally wonderful are Venable as the precocious grandson whose imitation of his Nono's accent is a killer and the deadpan Kramer (sharing the role with Tom Badal) as the moose. Did I mention that the moose serves as narrator and opens and closes the piece? This artifice of a human playing the animal makes little sense, but when you think about it, why not? The moose's uncanny appearance is about as undesired as Gina's announcement or Bruno's girlfriend. It interferes with the status quo and demands attention. Unusually delightful comic device!

5 out of 5 stars
(photo credit: Ed Krieger)

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