‘Escanada’ an outlandish comedy

Pagosa troupe opened 3-weekend run Friday

Remnar (Skip Wee), Reuben (Tim Moore), Albert (Andy Donlon), Jimmer (Dave Armbrecht) and Ranger Tom (Mark Brown)are shown in one of the more chaotic scenes from the Thingamajig Theatre Co.’s production of “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Doug Chapin Photography

Remnar (Skip Wee), Reuben (Tim Moore), Albert (Andy Donlon), Jimmer (Dave Armbrecht) and Ranger Tom (Mark Brown)are shown in one of the more chaotic scenes from the Thingamajig Theatre Co.’s production of “Escanaba in da Moonlight.”

The Thingamajig Theatre Company continues its fascination with the Yooper accent with its spring production of Jeff Daniels’ “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” Set on the opening night of deer season 1989, Daniels’ 2000 comedy follows Reuben Soady’s quest to bag his first 50-point buck in spite of curses, moose testicle milkshakes and aliens. The production is at times off-kilter and unbalanced, but always hilarious.

Reuben, portrayed by Artistic Director Tim Moore, arrives at the world famous Soady deer camp only to discover he is about to become the oldest Soady to never shoot a buck. His father and brother, played by Andy Donlon and Skip Wee, are convinced he is cursed. Their superstition comes true when everything that can go wrong, does go wrong in fantastic degrees of outrageousness.

“Escanaba in da Moonlight” is a tall tale to say the least. Originally performed at Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Mich., the comedy was later adapted into a film. But where other stories reliant upon easily stereotyped characters fail, “Escanaba” succeeds by offering a bit of depth to earn its humor. Narrated through a series of asides to the audience by the father Soady, Albert, the story finds wonderful moments of farce.

Though these wonderful moments are beautifully performed and choreographed, they are not supported throughout the rest of the play when the energy and focus of the actors tends to stray. At times, the actors are no longer playing for each other and the audience, but for themselves. The ensemble loses its cohesiveness and the overall production careens such as a deer blind in the wind.

Donlon is much like Albert Soady, attempting to rein in his two sons and the drunk-as-a-fish Jimmer (Dave Armbrecht), but he could very well be trying to rein in the actors as well. When Ranger Tom (Mark Brown) arrives at the scene, the show’s dynamic is thrown for a loop with Brown’s melodramatics.

That said, it is a riot to watch actors having fun. Despite its unfocused energy, Thingamajig’s production of “Escanaba in da Moonlight” pays good tribute to Daniels’ material.

The Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, which will soon celebrate its first anniversary, furthers its reputation as an inventive newcomer to the Four Corners with its production of “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” To raise funds, the local theater company, Thingamajig, is auctioning off the bit part of Reuben’s wife, Wolf Moon Dance. Every production will feature a different actress in the role.

Directed by Laura Moore, “Escanaba in da Moonlight” runs through April 1. The Thingamajig spring season at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts will conclude in May with a production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt.”

Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at margaretyh@gmail.com.