Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Pluck: The Titanic Show
Audiences at the Bethesda Theatre in the Washington suburbs are the first Americans fortunate enough to experience Pluck: The Titanic Show, an antic entertainment by a string trio with a knack for anarchic comedy. Pluckwhich has performed at fringe festivals in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Adelaide, Australiabills itself as "Mozart meets Monty Python," which seems about right.
The Titanic Show is Pluck's homage to the (stalwart if underpaid) musicians who performed on the one and only 1912 voyage of the ostensibly unsinkable ship. Since little documentation exists about the lives of the musicians before they met their end in the icy North Atlantic, the group has devised its own narrative, packed with non sequiturs, goofy sight gags, and dry British humor.
In this retelling of the story, Wallace Hartley (Adrian Garratt) is a tall violinist with absurd curly hair; violist Theodore Ronald Brailey (Jon Regan) is bald, pugnacious, and determined to show his skill with other musical instruments; and diminutive Roger Bricoux (Siân Kadifachi) proves that playing the cello need not be a sedentary pursuit. Part of the pleasure of the show, directed by Cal McCrystal, is the way the three trained musicians keep playing while wrestling with deck chairs, dancing an Irish jig, or crossing the stage in wheeled shoes.
It's difficult to write about this show without telling too much. Much of the humor is sly and situational: on the page, a line such as "It's the midget! And he's got tea!" doesn't sound nearly as funny as it does in context. Sue Mayes' set design and Ben Rogers' video design incorporate a silent movie featuring the three performers, several model icebergs that appear to be made of Styrofoam, and some enthusiastic opportunities for audience participation.
For all that, it must be emphasized that the performance is not only silliness. The members of Pluck do well with classics such as the Prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1; waltzes and popular songs; and, to commemorate the sinking of the ship, a solemn and unadorned rendition of "Nearer My God to Thee."
The Bethesda Theatre