“Androcles”- Some Aesop, a lot of GBS, & SHAW’s version. 1

Review by Danny Gaisin

Theatre attendance for a critic is supposed to be work, i.e. a chore, an obligation and a duty. Watching SHAW’s director Tim Carroll put his own slant on the 1600-year-old fable is such fun that the concept of being ‘work’ never enters the equation. From the pre-opening intercourse between audience and performers this is eponymous farce and except for two moments of serious didactic dialogue, sniggers chortles & full giggles are the Courthouse Theatre atmosphere. The action takes place on the thrust stage, but commentary; opinion and interaction are all solicited from the spectators. The action actually goes right up into the aisles.

Jeff Irving restraining Michael Therriault while Patrick Galligan and the others watch

            The familiar myth deals with a tailor/slave/servant (depending on version) who meets an injured lion. He pulls a thorn from the animal’s paw thus earning appreciation which is (in GBS’s tale) later repaid in the Circus Maximus where Andy does not end up an entrée or main course. Shaw (the author) used the story allegorically as a vehicle to publicize his anti-religious bias.
In Carroll’s iteration, two of the actors read out from the story’s prologue allowing themselves the opportunity to recruit the lion character from the audience. Watching him receive acting direction from the cast members is hilarious, especially if like our contender – he’s a good sport.
The early sequences are where Androcles portrayed by Patrick Galligan is verbally jousting with his wife Megaera. She’s winningly played by Jenny L Wright who, to these eyes, bears a strong resemblance to renowned comedienne Joanne Worley. Galligan, who we’ve previously enjoyed in both dramatic and musical roles, shows an effective talent for comedy. He possesses an innate sense of timing and in his audience asides, the expectant facial expressions of a ‘stand-up’ performer.
The duo with the dramatic moments are expounded by new Christian convert Julia Course’s Lavinia and Emperor’s military captain Kyle Blair. Their chemistry telegraphs what will happen by final curtain. She also has interactions with the other captives and seems to adapt chameleon-like to each one’s individual personality. A big role for a big man is that of Ferrovius, another recent convert whose background is UFC/MMA-ish competitions. He’s hilarious whether crushing, choking, swording (sic) or threatening adversaries. Fortunately, his new-found religion stops him before he does any serious damage. Also, personally & fortunately, because when he and the cast were parading through the aisles, he stopped briefly to tell me – “Write good stuff”.  I hope this column meets your request, big guy.
There are some other outstanding comedians on stage. Neil Barclay is a perfect emperor and is also a “Funny Thing Happened etc. type – condemned slave. As we’ve remarked before, his twinkling eyes a tremendous on & off-stage advantage. There is full-measure support from Sarena Parmar, a first timer and one hopes she’ll be given a long-term contract. Kristi Frank and Elodie Gillett are always reliable. Their previous roles show a wide range of portrayal abilities.
Mention must be made of the hymn singing and musical background created by Shaw’s melodic and harmonic genius –Paul Sportelli.
Finally, our personal favorite.  Spintho is the promiscuous self-indulgent character with a background of hedonistic debauchery. Michael Therriault is one hell of an actor to be able to play such a diametrically contradictory role from his own true personality. We loved him as Peter Pan; as Gollum in ‘Rings’; Phil Davis (White Christmas) and especially his Bloom in “The Producers”. We’ll definitely be back in NOTL to see his ‘Me & My Girl” persona.

ANDROCLES is at the Courthouse until October 7th and will probably give Shaw’s ‘Saint Joan’ a run for our O.A.R’. s “Top Ten” for 2017.

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