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|Genesius Guild Strikes Gold with "Plutus"|
|Theatre - Reviews|
|Written by Jill Walsh|
|Tuesday, 12 August 2003 18:00|
For 43 years, Don Wooten has been re-writing Greek history. His history lessons are anything but serious or classroom-worthy, and that’s all right with him. Wooten, the founder of Genesius Guild theatre group, has most recently altered the more outdated sections of Aristophanes’ comedy Plutus to make its already-quirky script even quirkier and more accessible to modern audiences. Wooten has added musical numbers and touches of local humor about bridge construction and the Mallards hockey team, and he addresses national issues such as war, education, President Bush, and television infomercials. With a bit of assistance from Aristophanes, Wooten has produced an appealing script.
Plutus has a simple plotline. The god of money and wealth, Plutus, is searching for a poor and honest person or a cause deserving of fortune. Instead, the deity encounters a horde of gold-digging women, a conniving slave and his master, Lady Poverty and Blepsidimus, and two muses who want funding for the arts.
The ongoing joke in Wooten’s version is that the script doesn’t have a conclusion, so none of the characters knows how the play will end. And this works out just fine, because the story isn’t really what’s important in this Greek comedy; the humor and the moral/irony – that good people are hard to find – are.
The Guild’s version of Plutus is funny from start to finish, from the moment Plutus wanders onstage sporting sunglasses to the traditional Guild ending, in which the actors engage in a chase scene and then fall down in exhaustion. Most of the humor is aimed at a politically and culturally aware audience. For example, some of the jokes poke fun at war tactics (as presented in Field Marshall Crummy’s version of Sinatra’s “My Way”), education (that modern culture doesn’t value arts professions as much as business ones), feminism (that women rarely get good roles in plays), and today’s youth (their love of bad music and their lack of knowledge). The play even makes fun of the Guild’s recent theatre season, which included parts one and two of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and the Greek tragedy The Bacchae. Plutus jokes about conventions of Greek theatre, such as the use of masks and the fact that all action occurs off-stage.
Though the re-written script is what makes Genesius Guild’s yearly production of Greek comedy unique, the acting talent also contributes to this year’s success.
Stage veterans Dave Wooten (Plutus), Bob Hanske (Cario, the slave), and Pat Flaherty (Chremylus) make it difficult to keep a straight face during the opening scene. While Wooten is stumbling around – Plutus is blind – running into stage flats and pillars, Hanske and Flaherty are casually plotting ways to steal his money. It’s like an episode of the Three Stooges.
The six Golden Girls spend the duration of Plutus trying to seduce the male characters into giving them money. They also provide most of the song and dance routines, which were enjoyable but a bit rusty at times; the singing was hard to hear over the recorded music, and some of the movements were off. The kick line drew some deserved applause, and Julie Wold-Peterson’s antics during the chicken song (a completely random and unnecessary number) broke up an otherwise awkward scene. (The lack of “good” female roles was poked fun at in the production, but it also seemed to be a sad-but-true fact in Plutus. Yet the women all made the best of it.)
Also worth mentioning is Doug Tschopp, a newcomer to the Guild stage (though not to the crew) who played the Tragic Messenger. This was my absolute favorite scene in the play, a segment that made fun of this traditional role in Greek dramas. Tschopp delivered his lines with an innocent befuddlement that was perfect for the monologue.
I’ve seen the past three years of Greek comedies at Genesius Guild, and Plutus was by far the wittiest and most humorous. The plot is easy to follow, the jokes are accessible to a general audience, and the actors make their goofy characters a joy to watch. At only an hour and a half, Plutus is an entertaining comedy that anyone can bank on.
Genesius Guild’s Plutus will be presented August 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. at Lincoln Park in Rock Island. Admission is free.
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