Tale of King Arthur on SBCT stage

In the final moments of “Camelot,” musical version of the Arthurian legend by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music), the beleaguered king on the eve of battle tries to insure the survival of his dream by instructing a young boy:

“Don’t let it be forgot

That once there was a spot,

For one brief, shining moment

That was known as Camelot.”

In the current South Bend Civic Theatre production, there are several “brief shining moments” but not enough to make the three-hour show seem anything more than just long.

It is not the fault of this production. I have never seen one that did not make me check my watch after the first hour and a half. Despite it’s now-classic ballad “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “Camelot” cannot escape the boringly ponderous finale, “Guenevere,” or the unending “Lusty Month of May” and “Take Me To the Fair.” And “The Joust,” an obvious “Ascot Gavotte” wannabe, doesn’t even come close to the “My Fair Lady” chorale.

That aside, SBCT veteran Ted Manier does a more than credible job as the legendary king, who finds his marriage and his kingdom crumbling before the machinations of his bastard son, Mordred. Arthur’s struggle to maintain the high ideals of his round table when faced with the increasing attraction between his wife and his champion knight is movingly delineated in his throne room “Proposition.”

As Guenevere, Maggie Mountsier displays a clear soprano and a gentle sense of humor. Her character warms as she battles her deep affection for Arthur and her growing love for Lancelot (Quinton McMutuary). There is no real connection between the supposedly star-crossed lovers, unfortunately making their emotional tension less than believable.

Steve Chung delivers a humorously grouchy King Pellinore, who arrives in Camelot in his search for the Questing Beast and, like Sheridan Whiteside, comes to dinner and stays for years. Gary Oesch is properly bearded as Merlin who lives backward in time until bewitched by Nimue (Pam Gunterman) and fails to warn Arthur about Mordred. (Joshua Napierkowski).

camelot south bend civic theatreThe evil offspring is actually one of my favorite characters, as is his lyrical outline of “The Seven Deadly Virtues.” Unfortunately Napierkowski stomps about (everyone else has soft shoes) and takes the sly usurper way over the top, delivering his song so rapidly that the delicious lyrics are mostly unintelligible.

Director David Chudzynski, who designed the set with Jill Hillman, keeps the action as fluid as possible. His impressive set features a large circular Celtic design on center stage, with hanging set pieces and changing lights to indicate varied moods and locations.

One major plus in this production is the absence of individual microphones for the performers. This seems to have been a large part of the sound problem that has plagued shows in the Willson Mainstage Auditorium. There is no difficulty here in hearing the singers/actors and, with only a few exceptions, both lyrics and dialogue are easily understood.

This does not apply to the nine piece orchestra which is offstage somewhere and visible to performers via a video screen on the light booth. The lush Loewe score is given short shrift and seemed to indicate the need for a good deal more rehearsal.

“CAMELOT” plays through Sept. 25 with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. For reservations and information, call 234-1112 or visit www.sbct.org




Duo create residents of Tuna, Texas

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes only two actors to raise a town.

The town is Tuna, Texas and the two actors who bring 20 of its most unique citizens (and several canines) to life in the current Elkhart Civic Theatre production of “Greater Tuna” are Kevin Egelsky and Scot Purkeypile.

Not only is this serving of “Tuna” filled with off-the-wall characters who nevertheless are strangely familiar, it is a one hour and 45 minute (plus intermission) display of amazing quick change artistry, not only in costume but in a wide range of personae, all the more believable for their unbelievability.

Putting on a dress and a wig is only part of changing Egelsky from radio disc jockey Thurston Wheelis to besieged housewife Bertha Bumiller and her aunt, Pearl Burras, who is addicted to poisoning dogs, and changing Purkeypile from co-disc jockey Arles Struvie to Bertha’s cheerleader-wannabe daughter Charlene and her brother, dog-loving Jody, and her twin Stanley, a recent reform school grad.

The voices change, the physical demeanors slump or straighten and the faces alter ever so slightly to facilitate the appearance of yet another slightly skewed Tuna-ite. Even when slightly appalled by the chain-smoking Didi Snavely, owner of Didi’s Used Weapons (“If Didi’s can’t kill it, it’s immortal”), her husband, R.R, town drunk and frequent sighter of U.F.Os shaped like chalupas, and Elmer Watkins, head of Chapter 249 of the KKK, it is impossible not to award them the laughter they deserve, even if they sometimes feel a little too familiar.

greater tuna elkhart civic theatre bristol INPurkeypile can turn on a dime to deliver soft-hearted animal lover Petey Fisk of the Greater Tuna Humane Society and sociopath Stanley Bumiller, making both equally tangible. His gender switch to town gossip Vera Carp, vice president of the Smut-Snatchers of the New Order, is both hilarious and chilling but no more so than when Vera slides into sleep during a cliché-laden speech by Egelsky as Smut-Snatchers president the Rev. Spikes.

As Pearl, Egelsky takes her hatred of dogs to a riotous level as her strychnine-laced meatball is devoured by the wrong hound and she must enlist the aid of nephew Stanley in disguising the murder as a hit-and-run. His turn as Rev. Spikes is frighteningly familiar.

Canine or human, male or female, Eglsky and Purkeypile delineate the good, the bad and the ugly of Tuna, Texas with amazing results, from totally touching to absolutely appalling (and absolutely hilarious).

Under the direction of Karen Johnston with assistance from John Shoup, there are few if any lags as the action shifts from the studio of Station OKKK to the Bumiller home to a variety of other locations around town.

There is no doubt that the smooth transitions in characters could not be accomplished without the help of the ladies who spend each show waiting backstage and in the wings to facilitate the incredibly fast changes of shoes, dress and wigs. They are Pati Banik, Dawn Blessing, Susie Miller, Phyllis Oliver and Sandy VanTilburg. Each one is an integral part of “Greater Tuna.”

“GREATER TUNA” plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on S.R., 120 in Bristol. For reservations and information call 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays.