A Funny And Surprisingly Touching 'Addams Family' At Drama Guild

By: Ellen Chahey

The cast of “The Addams Family” at the Chatham Drama Guild. From left, Karen McPherson (Grandma), Susanna Creel (Wednesday Addams), Scott Hamilton (Gomez Addams), Mike Guzowski (Lurch), Rebecca Banas (Morticia Addams), Thelonious Shores (Pugsley), Jim Batzer (Uncle Fester). DELANE MOSER PHOTO

It’s about lunacy, a Midsummer Night’s Dream of sorts. And it’s not the Addams Family you might remember from the TV show, odd but really gentle and sweet in their own weird way.

No, this is The Addams Family musical, presented through Aug. 4 by the Chatham Drama Guild. Wednesday has grown up enough to fall in love and want to get married—and Morticia, angry that Wednesday now has a life of her own, is fixing to become the mother-in-law from Hades.

Meanwhile, around the mother-daughter conflict swirl many other love stories, and the problems that ensue. Morticia and Gomez. The parents of Wednesday’s intended. Wednesday and her brother Pugsley’s tortured—literally—relationship. Grandmama and her pet rat (which she keeps in a pouch around her neck). Uncle Fester and, well, why spoil his love story? And the tender, bittersweet father-daughter love of Wednesday and Gomez, really the driver of the story as she confides in him and his love tears him between her and her mother.

The Drama Guild has chosen a good cast. Morticia (Rebecca Banas) is a true triple-threat (she acts, sings, and dances wonderfully) and sports a gorgeous black costume crowned with lustrous long black hair.

Uncle Fester will be played alternately by Jim Batzer and Todd Cashdollar (whose bio says that he grew up in Westfield, N.J., “the hometown of Addams Family creator Charles Addams”). I saw Batzer, and he brought a sweet and loving touch to the role.

Wednesday will also be portrayed alternately, by Susanna Creel and Virginia Ohlson. I saw Creel, and her terrific voice and stage presence made a more grown-up Wednesday plausible.

The original New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams and the original TV show were both in black-and-white, and the musical makes its own statement with color. A sort of Greek chorus of Addams ancestors, whom Uncle Fester summons from their tombs, wear beautiful costumes (designed by Pam Banas) of white. There’s a bride, a baker, little children…all kinds of people whose stories you wish you knew.

And of course there’s plenty of black, on the ones who are alive but know, glowingly, that some day they will die.

This play introduces a color, yellow, which symbolizes the crossing of Wednesday into a world outside the Addams mansion. “But we don’t wear bright colors,” Morticia gripes to her daughter, complaining about the choice of a dress that Wednesday wears to a dinner with her prospective in-laws, until her fiancé Lucas’s mother takes off her coat to reveal a yellow suit, however unflattering and ill-fitting.

One more shout-out about a cast member. You just can’t go wrong when Karen McPherson is in a play, and here she is as Granmama, a funny, blunt, wise crone. She writes in her bio that her memoir will be called “Too Old for Juliet, But She Played the Nurse.”

The play is deftly directed by Scott Hamilton, who also plays Gomez with a beautiful voice and who illuminates what it must be like to be torn between secrets. Hamilton’s wife Kathy choreographed the show with lots of fun dancing. The music was provided on piano by Geraldine Boles, and, yes, it does include that unforgettable duh-duh-duh-DUH, complete with finger-snaps, that many of a certain age will remember.

The main thing about The Addams Family—whether we’re talking about the New Yorker cartoons, the classic TV show from the ‘60s, or the Broadway show that now you can see in Chatham—is that they all ask, “What is ‘normal?' What is ‘truth’?” This play adds the question, “How many ways can people love?” Uncle Fester, in this time of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, certainly provides a novel answer and one of the loveliest scenes and songs of the play.

The Addams Family musical was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.

The Chatham Drama Guild is an all-volunteer, 87-year-old theater group. Future productions on the schedule include “If/Then” (Aug. 17 to Sept. 8) and “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” which will open in October.

 

DETAILS:

“The Addams Family, A New Musical Comedy”

At The Chatham Drama Guild, 134 Crowell Rd., Chatham

Through Aug. 4, Tuesdays, Wednesdays (naturally), and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 4.

Information and reservations: 508-945-0510, www.Chatdramaguild.org.