Saturday, April 01, 2006

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Post Street Theater, San Francisco

I come to you now to prepare the Seattle audiences for this hysterical romp through the life of a twelve-year-old spelling champion for the Paramount's upcoming season.

Though they may seem strange in school and in public and at home and at social events, they seem, well, still strange at the spelling bee. But boy can they spell! But what happens when love, spite, bad luck, divine intervention, and audience members who can spell interfere with the sanctity of the Spelling Bee? What happens is this play.

The Post Street Theater is the perfect venue for this production. It's small, intimate size actually feels like the setting of the play, a school gymnasium. However, one could perform this play in any space and it will be equally fantastic. Beowulf Boritt's set design in incredible. Flying backdrops of school gym and beautiful horizon back the simple desk and chairs of the majority of the stage. Jennifer Caprio's costume designs stay very true to the recent original production of this show. Awkward, strange, and unusual-for-a-twelve-year-old styles enhance the bizarre nature of these kids. James Lapine directed this play perfectly. Training actors not to laugh at hilarious and unexpected occurrences and the comedic timing are impeccable.

Rona Lisa Peretti, the former champion of the Bee and current Real Estate agent/co-host of the Bee - played by Betsy Wolfe - is your quintessential all-too-peppy Real Estate agent and pseudo-philosopher. Wolfe's talents are wonderfully fitting for this show. Her big voice and slightly-too-sweet looks fit fantastically. Douglas Panch - the vice principle of the school - played by Jim Cashman - is wonderfully bizarre himself. His delivery of the definitions and sentences about the words for the spellers are wonderfully fun. The group of actors playing the spellers are all equally amazing. Characters from the boyscout/last year's champion to the nerd with chronic congestion to the tragic ignored children come together "in perfect syzygy" in this production.

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