Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Miss Saigon
Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company has opened the vast stage of Sidney Harman Hall to something completely different: Potted Potter, billed as "The Unauthorized Harry Experience: A Parody by Dan and Jeff." Obviously, people who are familiar with J.K. Rowling's stories of the boy wizard will get more of the jokes, but the pace is rapid (the show runs about 70 minutes) and the performance peppered with enough improvisation and topical gags that even non-cognoscenti should have a rollicking time.
Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson, creators and performers (working with director Richard Hurst), take on the challenge of retelling the complete, seven-volume story of Harry Potter and his friends in a very short period of time. They receive help from Simon Scullion's purposely ridiculous set and Tim Mascall's lighting design, which encompasses the auditorium as well as the stage.
The performance has an endearing do-it-yourself vibe as Jeff (as Harry) and Dan (as everyone else) toss off one-liners in a variety of odd accentsas Jeff points out, Dan sounds like Shrek when he uses a Scottish accent as Hagridand create some delightfully low-tech special effects, mostly involving repurposed toys.
And then there's the audience participation. Dan invites two audience members onstage (although he may not call on any more pre-teen girls after a zany incident on press night) as part of a theater-wide game of Quidditch during the performance. (For the non-Potterites out there, Quidditch is the school sport at Hogwarts. It involves flying brooms, a large ball that must be tossed through a vertical hoop to score points, and a smaller golden ball that must be caught by one of the two onstage Seekers.)
Much of the humor doesn't make sense out of context, what with lines like "It's a really evil coconut" and "That's warthogs, not Hogwarts," and the timely appearance of a disco ball. But just go with it and laugh.
Shakespeare Theatre Company