The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Escanaba in da Moonlight
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show February 13 - March 20, 2016
Reviewer Gerry Camp
Review “It’s like Christmas with guns!” That’s how Remnar Soady (Matt Udall) describes the opening of hunting season in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U. P.) in Jeff Daniels’ Escanoba in da Moonlight.

The play opens with Mike Jimena as the father of the Soady clan of Yoopers, natives of the U.P., speaking directly to the audience as he will throughout the play. He is relating the events that occurred in November 1989, but he doesn’t expect us to believe him. “I didn’t either, and I was there,” he says, but immediately we are back in that year as his two sons Remnar and Reubin (Eric Olson) arrive at the “world famous Soady Deer Camp” where the men of the Soady family have been coming for over a century.

This year’s hunt has special meaning for the younger son Reuben. At age 35 he has yet to bag himself a buck. If he doesn’t get one this year, he will be the oldest Soady on record to have failed to achieve that milestone.

This deer season is to be like no other. The UFOs, which pass overhead frequently with blinding lights, are a factor, and the party is soon joined by Jimmer Negamanee, played way over the top by Jerold McFatter. Jimmer was once abducted by aliens for a weekend. When he returned he was changed; he could drink like a fish, and he speaks in a kind of gibberish which the other characters seem to understand and translate for each other.

Then strange things happen. Albert’s famous Sweet Sap Whiskey turns to maple syrup, and the numbers on the deck of cards change right in the middle of a game. Then the company is joined by an agent of the Department of Natural Resources (Steve Reed) who reports that he has just seen God.

Reuben’s Indian wife has sent along some aids to help insure Reuben’s success. Instead of the pasties (meat pies) he always brings, they are to subsist on a diet of a potion made from, among other ingredients, moose testicles. And they are to anoint themselves with porcupine urine, which acts as an “afro-diesel-act” to attract bucks.

At the end of the first act, when all have gone to sleep, Reuben is awakened by lights and noises and falls into a trance. The measures taken to snap him out of it must be seen, but they bring down the house.

The script of this play is whacky beyond belief, and the ensemble acting is perfection. With the overlapping dialogue and always unpredictable actions, all within the confines of the tiny cabin, this play is one of the funniest you will see all year. Credit must be given for its total hilarity to the brilliant direction of Connie Mockenhaupt in what must have been a huge challenge.

For lovers of totally off-the-wall comedy, you won’t find a more delightful evening of theatre than Escanaba in da Moonlight, at the Sutter Street Theatre through March 20.

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