A theater production with the audacity to mix an incompetent diplomat, a patronizing secretary, an elitist sultan and hundreds of angry communists is bound to result in hilarity. That's what ensued at Park View High School last weekend with its interpretation of Woody Allen's Cold War comedy "Don't Drink the Water."

Set in an undisclosed nation "behind the Iron Curtain" in the 1960s, "Don't Drink the Water" centers on the American ambassador's son, Axel Magee, a lad prone to failure. He manages to start an international crisis no matter where he is.

When his father is summoned home, Axel is left in charge, which doesn't bode well for a family of Americans that flees to the embassy to escape local police who think they are spies.

The Hollander family quickly grows impatient with the bizarre circumstances, and the bumbling Axel tries to figure out how to get home safely to New Jersey.

Naturally, everything that could go wrong does, as the show rolls to a clever, if abrupt, climax.

Park View's cast did a fine job of bringing Allen's neurotic characters and one-liners to life. Nick Aliff was nearly flawless as the disgruntled Walter Hollander, using a mild "Joy-zee" accent and varying the speed of his delivery to bring out Allen's best-known character, the neurotic whiner.

Jamie Chahine and Zaki Albarzinji provided many laughs in supporting roles as a dilettante clergyman and a malcontent cook, respectively. Some of their lines, in fact, were lost amid the laughter, but the audience hardly noticed.

Allen wrote this play in 1966 to poke fun at the Cold War, and some might see the current production, with another war looming, as insensitive. Others might commend Park View for tackling a play that suggests that the absurdity of war is the conflict itself.

William Cooper

T.C. Williams High School

A U.S. embassy in the Soviet Union in the 1960s is the setting for the ill-fated espionage mix-up that is Woody Allen's "Don't Drink the Water," a play made into a movie and made into a play again last weekend at Park View High School.

The show dazzled with a detailed, eye-catching set that gave every appearance of being an embassy, and Park View's energetic cast took it from there.

Among the strong performers were Jamie Chahine as Father Drobney, the witty narrator; Jeff Caplan as the ambassador's son, Axel Magee; and Amy Shields as Susan Hollander, a New Jersey tourist who finds herself linked romantically with the hapless Axel.

Nick Aliff played Susan's father, Walter, to perfection. His whiny, stubborn character was an audience favorite. A rabbit-chasing scene with Walter and the embassy chef, played by Zaki Albarzinji, had some audience members in hysterics.

The show's technical aspects, from the simple lighting of a room to the sound of gunshots, were precise and convincing. No microphones were used, but the actors displayed such energy and voice projection that volume was not a problem.

In fact, the only problems this show had were those of Allen's creation . . . just the way Park View wanted it.

Regina Cerimele

Stone Bridge High School

Director Marina Politano, left, talks with cast member Amy Shields backstage during Park View High's rehearsal of "Don't Drink the Water." Technical director Ed Hicks, from left, talks with stage manager Jessi Chapin and assistant director Heather Clements at rehearsal.