‘Disaster’ Sails On Sea Of Laughs

At just before 8 p.m. every night this week (and before 5 p.m on Sunday), The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI braces itself for a big “Disaster!”

Luckily, it gets (at least) one every night!

Marianne (Rachel Mahar] and Tony Delvecchio (Jonnie Carpathios) discover Pirhannas in the ship’s fishtanks inThe Theatre production of DISASTER!

That’s because “Disaster” is the title of the musical which opened Tuesday evening and — for one week only — is steaming determinedly from one oceanic catastrophe to another.

It is a disaster — but I dare you not to laugh!

Assembling for The Barn’s nautical journey (made initially while tied securely to the NYC dock) are as wacky a group of passengers as ever sailed (?) together.

The list includes: Ted Scheider (Hans Friedrichs) is a professor and “disaster expert”; Chad Rubik (Jamey Grisham), a  caterer formerly engaged to Marianne Wilson (Rachel Mahar), a reporter who dumped Chad to pursue her career; Scott (Eric Fredrickson), caterer and friend of Chad; Levora Verona (Abby Brooks), an aging singer hoping for a casino comebackW and her beloved dog; Tony Delvecchio (Jonnie Carpathios), the less-than-honest casino owner; Jackie Noelle (Samantha Rickard), lounge singer hoping for a proposal from Tony and mother of twins Ben and Lisa (Braden Davis), who change with the flip of a braid; Shirley Winters (Penelope Alex), wife and eager cruiser and everyone’s friend with a fatal secret; Maury Winters (Charlie King),  Shirley’s husband; and Sister Mary Downey (Kasady Kwiatkowska), a nun with a strong yen for the one-arm bandits.

Charlie (Eric Friedrickson) talks of an escape route to (from left: Lisa (Braedon Davis), Jackie (Samantha Rickard), Shirley (Penelope Alex) and her husband Maury (Charlie King) in The Barn Theatre production of DISASTER!

Collateral damage is handled by a Wealthy Man and his wife (John Jay Espino and

Andrea Arvanigan); a struggling Chef (Steven Lee Burright); a taxi driver (Brandon  Mancuso), his passenger (Molly Hill) and Jake (Miguel Ragel Wilson), an all-purpose casino man.

Few — and yet most — escape the onslaiught of fatal emergencies which begin with a number of minor earthquakes (“It’s construction on the West Side Highway,” says Tony, his explanation for just about everything that happens).

Eventually these “emergencies” include a volcanic eruption, a really massive quake brought on by the passengers knocking on wood plus the final cashing out of the slot machine; the attack of the ship’s rat population, sharks, pirahanas, fire and, as what’s left of the passengers and crew head for the lifeboats, a major tidal wave., turning the ship upside down (sound familiar?)

Sister Mary Downey (Kasady Kwiatkowska) can’t break her attraction to the slot machine in The Barn Production of DISASTER!

All of this and more occurs to the mostly definite up beat of familiar music from the 1970s, which arrives appropriately at every given moment.

It’s the uncontrollable urge you get to laugh in the face of gruesome events especially when Chad and the Wealthy Husband find themselves on deck alone with a bag full of “disposable” parts and suddenly break into “Three Times A Lady” or when Sister Mary Downy fights the temptation to put a found quarter into the slot machine with “Never Can Say Goodbye” — then it’s just time to let go and laugh out loud as the Barracuda and it’s remaining passengers avoid total immersion with “Daybreak” and “Hooked on a Feling!”

Marianne (Rachel Mahar) tries to help a drowning Chad (Jamey Grisham) in he Barn Theatre production of DISASTERi

Actually the “funniest passenger awards” goes to Alex whose realization of the increasing symptoms of her terminal disease — uncontrolled pelvic thrusts and the desire to say all manner of disgusting things — requires stifling. Lucky she has a scarf!

Soap opera fans will recognize the theme song  which accompanies one passenger’s balancing act. It’s camp run amuck, with Patrick Hunter as the tourist director, and it’s a toss up as to which side of the footlights is having more fun!!

As the set by Samantha Sow, partially recycled from a previous production, begins  to crumble and the shark-infested waters begin to rise, it’s time to say farewell to those still clinging to the Barracuda.

That is if you can stop laughing!

Maury and Shirley (Charlie King and Penelope Alex) are on a long-delayed honeymoone
Barn Theatre production off DISASTER!!

The orchestra, directed by keyboardist Brent J. Decker supports the survival efforts with pieces of music from the ‘70s. There’s hardly ever a full song, but there’s enough of each to jar lots of memories and invoke lots of laughs!

On a personal note: Being from the Garden State, I found the last sentence really less than funny! Check it out for yourself!

“DISASTER” plays through Sunday at the theater on M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. for performance times and reservations call (269) 731-4121.




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