Lauren King Thompson (left) and Samantha Wynn Greenstone in "Animal Crackers." Photo by Daren Scott
It’s supreme silliness and comic anarchy when the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harper and to a lesser extent Zeppo) are center-stage in Animal Crackers, the 1928 musical that became a beloved film two years later. When they’re not center-stage and instead the action turns to tap dancing and handsome couples in love crooning to each other, Animal Crackers loses its crunch. Back in the late ‘20s, when audiences gobbled up things like tap dancing and cute crooning, the charm most likely never waned. As Cygnet Theatre’s current production of Animal Crackers doesn’t intend to suggest but surely does, times have changed.
Josh Odsess-Rubin’s Groucho, Spencer Rowe’s Chico, Samantha Wynn Greenstone’s Harpo and Bryan Banville’s Zeppo (the “serious” one) ignite constant hilarity during this long-winded show (Act One alone is 80 minutes). And Melinda Gilb in particular provides amusing support as a flustered foil, but much of Animal Crackers (more so than in the 97-minute movie) turns wearying with its incidental “plot” and the drawn-out devices that seek to hold it together. (Originally reviewed in San Diego CityBeat 7/26/17)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.