Fiddledeedee Aboard Pluck's 'Titanic Show'
By Peter Marks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009
"The Titanic Show" is off its rocker, but in a nice way. The balmy brainchild of the British comedy troupe Pluck, the piece offers a smidgen of musical this, a soupcon of clownish that -- and a whole lot of cheek.
It is, in other words, an enjoyable descendant of all those lowbrow/highbrow endeavors, like Beyond the Fringe and Monty Python, that have long distinguished the brand of cerebral humor run through with silliness, as popularized by some of our zanier transatlantic cousins.
Pluck, which was formed in 2002 and has traveled the world, is stopping for a few weeks at Bethesda Theatre for its area premiere. "The Titanic Show," directed by Cal McCrystal, is tailored to the peculiar amalgam of talents of its trio of amiable performers: Adrian Garratt, Sian Kadifachi and Jon Regan.
Garratt, the tall one, wears a ludicrous hairpiece, juggles a bit and plays the violin. Regan, a shorter one, fiddles on the viola, makes egregious noise on a trombone and gets boiling mad at any comment that he imagines to be a double-entendre. Kadifachi is the female one, who plays the cello as if it were meant to be mobile and, though she's disguised as a man, lets us all transparently in on the joke that it's not a very good disguise.
Together, they time-travel back to the deck of the RMS Titanic for what they assure us is a tribute to the "sturdy musicians" who played on, even as the ship went down. All three actually are accomplished string instrumentalists, so the pieces they play by Mozart and Rossini and the renditions of "Rule Britannia" and "Nearer My God to Thee" are fairly serious efforts. That they continue to play while performing such unmusical tasks as unfolding complicated wooden deck chairs and dealing out poker hands adds layers of engaging lunacy.
The show ambles along to its own offbeat rhythms. Some of the humor is so veddy veddy dry that it seems to evaporate on contact. But the sight gags are rolled out with a pleasing hit-or-miss joviality, and the performers' casual attitudes -- the show is never anything close to slick -- convey a kind of up-to-the-minute accessibility. They come across as what you might think of as a hipper breed of nerd. Sort of.
The stage accouterments are rudimentary. (A cheesy iceberg that inevitably gets dragged across the stage looks as if it were fashioned out of packing material.) The videos that flash on a circular screen, made to seem like a giant porthole, evince more polish. A silent-movie parody featuring the entire Pluck company makes for a short, daft, appealing diversion.
Which is also what "The Titanic Show" succeeds in being. The likable Garratt, Kadifachi and Regan will have you rooting for their own ship to come in.
The Titanic Show, by Pluck (Adrian Garratt, Sian Kadifachi, Jon Regan). Directed by Cal McCrystal. Choreography, Robyn Simpson; lighting, Natasha Chivers; set, Sue Mayes; videos, Ben Rogers. About 1 hour 40 minutes.