REVIEW: ‘Marriage’ Madness at the Hilberry

Reviewed by Sue Suchyta, Dearborn Times-Herald

Click HERE to read the review on the Times-Herald website.

Posted: Mar. 5, 2013

Gogol’s Marriage, adapted by Barbara Field, is a comic romp and satire of the rituals that lead up to marriage and the awkwardness of attraction.

Brent Griffith (Podkoliosin), Ty Mitchell (Kochkariev), Annie Keris (Agafya)Photo: Kevin Replinger

Brent Griffith (Podkoliosin), Ty Mitchell (Kochkariev), Annie Keris (Agafya)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

The show runs in rotating repertory through April 6 at the Hilberry Theatre, 3424 Woodward in Detroit. For tickets call 313-577-2972 or go to www.hilberry.com.

Set in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the 1840s, but surprisingly modern in its portrayal of human idiosyncrasies, Marriage focuses on Podkoliosin, a minor court official and a bachelor, who feels pressured to marry.

Soon, a matchmaker, and an unhappily married friend jump into the fray to find him a wife who will enrich his life monetarily and will accept the reluctant bachelor; however, other reluctant grooms have the same agenda, and soon the loony bin is full of silly suitors.

Michael Wilkki’s colorful set, a giant garish wedding cake flanked by two gigantic cupcakes, calls to mind a technicolor Seuss story come to life with whimsical details and enthusiastic excess.

Likewise, Clare Hungate-Hawk’s costumes evoke thoughts of Alice’s madcap romp in Wonderland with a brace of suitors with exaggerated character flaws in their comic costumes highlighted with bright splashes of unabashed color.

Set against the cartoonish colors and stage magic, the cast completes the comic characterization with entertaining earnestness. Brent Griffith, as Podkoliosin, the anxious and procrastinating bachelor, plays the character with laughable nervous energy as he tries to conform to society’s demands and still clings to the safety net of procrastination.

Ty Mitchell as Kochkariev, Podkoliosin’s unhappily wed wingman, is energetically motivated to engage his best bud. Kochkariev pushes, prods and plays his pal like a piano to lead him to the altar.

Annie Keris is a wide-eyed delight as Agafya, the overwhelmed potential bride trying valiantly to follow society’s courtship rituals while discretely trying to sort the toads from the potential princes as she faces an onslaught of beaus more interested in her dowry than in her.

Joshua Blake Rippy, a physically imposing man in drag, is funny as her Aunt Arina, reminding one of a similar device often used to invoke laughter in Oscar Wilde’s plays.

The three main suitor rivals – Chris Call as Poach’Tegg, Miles Boucher as Anuchkin and Topher Payne as Zhevakin – have fun and make the most of their characters’ eccentricities.

Between scenes, karaoke takes center stage as the cast sings and dances along to pop tunes associated with falling in and out of love, much to the amusement of the house.

As characters bounce on and off stage, looking for love in all the wrong ways and places, audiences laugh and breathe a mental sigh of relief that they are  not stuck in the middle of the engagement games.

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