An Addams for one night
Mirava M. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Laughter may be the best medicine, but with just the right titration, it could also put you at death’s door. Somehow, Atlantis Productions’ latest offering accomplishes that paradox of sorts by constantly dancing on the fine line between life and death.

A simultaneously twisted, tummy-busting family affair, The Addams Family, is their latest feat, directed by Bobby Garcia, and a follow-up as well as the season ender for 2013 after the horror musical Carrie last September. The timing could not have been more perfect, as both plays sandwich Halloween month and keep the creepy going indefinitely. But while Carrie was a harsh eye-opener for the toxic relationships among dysfunctional families, The Addams Family is lethal in a different way. It’s scary in that it’s side-splitting, and veers off the cliff of absurdity into the realm of completely (as the famous theme song would say) “kooky.”

The musical is largely inspired by the 1991 movie, as well as the animated series that was created a year later. The crazy accents are what give it away, though diehard Addams Family fans will rejoice at the return of satirical humor, which was a trademark of the comic strips sketched by cartoonist Charles Addams as early as 1938.

It was in 2007 when Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice penned the book, while Andrew Lippa wrote the music and lyrics. It opened on Broadway in 2010, and very recently, waived all rights and fees for our local production after hearing of Typhoon Yolanda. Fittingly enough, the musical puts more emphasis on the “family” part of the title, allowing for some wackier, stranger comedy and its own share of heartwarming moments. Nevertheless, the family’s love for sadomasochism and monochromic palettes reigns supreme, even in this version.

Obviously, character is the driving force behind the play. Nostalgia was a large factor in catapulting the original Broadway production to 100% capacity throughout its run. People love The Addams-es, and the primary challenge lies in actors’ abilities to bring to life such an iconic family. Did they succeed? The answer is a resounding Hell, yes!

Let’s start with Gomez (Arnel Ignacio), the dashing husband whose only crime is loving too much: his equal dedication to his wife and daughter results in him fretting when the two clash. Along with his wife, he is a one-liner machine, whose antics help keep the theater in a constant state of laughter. The matriarch Morticia (Eula Valdez) remains perfectly devilish and has practiced – and perfected – the swish of her hips, even when she’s not dancing.

While the parents are famously macabre and zany as they’re supposed to be, Wednesday Addams has received the most unique treatment in the play. A hybrid between the movie rendition (all gloom and monotony, made famous by Christina Ricci) and the much sunnier cartoon counterpart, this Wednesday serves as the very crux of the narrative when she decides to bring her boyfriend Lucas (Ryan Gallagher) and his parents (Calvin Millado and Carla Guevara-Laforteza) over to the manor. She has been markedly aged up to serve the main plot – her announcement of an engagement to Lucas – and is now far more grounded than the rest in an attempt to make her romance “seem normal.” It’s a request she passes on to her family. “At least for one night,” she pleads, to the chagrin of everyone, especially little brother Pugsley (Warren Saga / Anton Posadas).

Do they succeed? Well, of course not, especially when the rest of the clan, Uncle Fester (Jamie Wilson), Grandma (Jimmy Marquez / Nyoy Volante) and the stoic butler Lurch (Ikey Canoy), are involved. But the hilarity escalates when they most certainly try. The whole musical takes place over the course of one precarious evening, as Lucas and his family attempt to survive a night with the Addams-es, and they, in turn, do their best to hide their disgust at the sheer idea of survival – or anything alive, for that matter.

The resulting product is a high-speed, energy-pumped roller-coaster ride, whose pace gets seemingly faster with every musical number. The songs are well-paced and catchy, even though most of them are punch lines to elaborate jokes. By the time the dreaded dinner between the two families actually rolls around, the characters are lightning-quick in their lambasting of each other, everything culminating in a complete loss of sensibilities, as summed up in the thrilling number, Full Disclosure.

The Addams Family forces you to examine your own judgments of other people, and urges you to reevaluate the true meaning of “bizarre.” Because despite the obsession with torture and painful deaths, the Addams-es are livelier than any other family. They love unrepentantly, and are guiltless about their passion. By the end of the night, after scoffing at the “normal” family as they’ve been doing all along, you realize how you were inducted into the family without knowing it. And as a final laugh in the face of all those “normal” Broadway plays with songs about “finding the light” (you know who they are), the family croons out a cheery number titled Move Toward The Darkness.

The Addams Family will continue to be performed at The Meralco Theater on Nov. 24 (3 p.m.) - Sunday, Nov. 29 (8 p.m.) – Friday  and Nov. 30 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) – Saturday, and on Dec.r 1 (3 p.m.), Sunday. For tickets, visit TicketWorld at www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999.

ADDAMS ADDAMS FAMILY ANDREW LIPPA ANTON POSADAS ARNEL IGNACIO ATLANTIS PRODUCTIONS BOBBY GARCIA CALVIN MILLADO AND CARLA GUEVARA-LAFORTEZA FAMILY LUCAS
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