Sunday, February 8, 2009

review - A Don't Hug Me County Fair

A Don't Hug Me County Fair
book & lyrics by Phil Olson
music by Paul Olson

directed by Doug Engalla
staging by Stan Mazin

through March 22

Seeing an Olson Brothers' show, set deep in the heart of Minnesota, may be an unbelievably perplexing experience for first-timers. Do these Norwegians actually talk this way and behave as if they were living in a 60s time warp? We may be witnessing life on another planet. Cartoon or reality? Remember Rose Nyland of The Golden Girls? Once in a childlike mindset, you will have a grand old time, like eating bacon and gravy on a stick - well, it's better than it sounds! A Don't Hug Me County Fair, now onstage at LCGRT in North Hollywood, is the third installment in the Olsons' parodies and offers a barrel and a half of laughs.
This is unsophisticated humor, which tends toward downright crudity sometimes. Like Gunner implies, if you want polite, hang around Canadians! Men ogle and grope their women, treat them like crap, and the women do little about it except to whine and, in this case, join a local competition - for Walleye Queen - where they may find some appreciation and perhaps a teeny bit of self-esteem in this macho fisherman's world. I've never thought much of Redneck humor, but I have to admit, I fell right on into the gags of this show and ended up loving the clever one liners, sincerely innocent tunes and genuinely talented cast.
Tom Gibis is a hoot as Gunner/Trigger. "There's no way I'm gonna be here when she's here". He makes his Trixie as overtly and obnoxiously unsensuous as humanly possible. Judy Heneghan makes a perfectly sensible Clara and beautiful Katherine Brunk, a voluptuous Bernice. Tom Lommel is an approriately annoying Kanute, and Brad MacDonald plays Aarvid as the super flashy loser that he is.
Tunes "When Ya Need to Share Your Feelings, Get a Card" and "Bunyan Bay" are favorites and go a long way to bring an endearing sense of charm to the otherwise Beverly Hillbilly-type foolishness.
Praise to Chris Winfield for all the detail in his set design of the bar and to Stan Mazin for his engaging dance movements, especially for the surprise rap at Act I's finale.
All in all, a fun romp that is bound to be a popular superhit for GRT.
4 out of 5 stars


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