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Escanaba in da Moonlight

     Chances are you've never heard of Escanaba.  Neither did
nine-tenths of the audience the night we saw "Escanaba in da
Moonlight" at the Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro.
     But I guarantee this: After sitting through Jeff Daniel's
hysterical side-splitting comedy, no one will ever forget it.  So
take a hint: If you want an escape from all the crises in the
world, get your tickets now!
    San Pedro may be off the beaten-track, but word is spreading
fast and "Escanaba" was sold-out last weekend.  People are buzzing
about home-brewed whiskey spiked with maple syrup (yuk!), strange
magic potions, mysterious Indian rituals, unintelligible
incantations, and porcupine urine that keeps evil spirits away.
    Everything takes place in the Soady family deer camp in the
heart of the forest on the first day of hunting season.  Since the
Little Fish Theatre is a small intimate space, viewers feel like
they're right inside the cabin with all the cockamamie characters.
Kudos to Anthony and Peggy Inferrera for the delightful set, and to
Michael Aldapa for his light design, which is an integral part of
the plot.
    Under the fast-paced direction of Gia Jordahl, each member of
the cast is a hoot-and-a-half, and that's putting it mildly.  The
first person we meet is Albert Soady, who is delightfully portrayed
by Dan Adams.  As the father of dim-witted Reuben (Rendon Ramsey)
and loud-mouth Remnar (Chris Mock), he talks directly to the
audience in a colloquial Finnish accent.
    Albert tells everyone that Escanaba is a small isolated
community on Lake Superior in Northern Michigan's Upper Peninsula
near the Canadian border.  Since it's a haven for wild life, the
descendants of Fins, Norwegians, and Ojibwa Indians have developed
a rich folklore.  They also have traditions that revolve around
hunting season, animal spirits, and the importance of bagging their
first "Big Buck."
    Well now, here comes the heavy drama in Daniel's comedy.
Except for an uncle who has a few screws loose, Reuben Soady is the
only one in his family who has never shot a buck.  You know, the
big moose with a head full of antlers that people hang on their
wall as a trophy so they can brag about it.
    Since Reuben is almost 45 years old, this is his last chance to
beat the odds.  Armed with advice from his Indian wife, Wolf Moon
Dance (Marie Arevalo), he is as "tense as a moose's butt durin' fly
season."
    The arrival of their friend, Jimmer Negamanee, makes everyone
even goosier. John Charles Meyer's portrayal of this oddball
character is hilarious.  Jimmer claims he was abducted a few years
back by alien spirits who arrived at night in a bolt of light.
    Now that he has been returned to earth, Jimmer drinks like a
fish and talks non-stop jibberish.  And every time strange
lights streak across the Northern sky, Reuben thinks "Oh no!
They're comin' after me this time."
    If this exposition of Escanada doesn't grab your attention, you
might be anemic; so some magic potion and weird incantation will be
just what the doctor ordered.  It certainly helped Ranger Tom
Treado, who arrived at the cabin late at night and entered the
hyped up fray.  Victor J.  Springer's portrayal of this unexpected
guest almost brings the house down.
     To find out what happens next in Daniels' side-splitting saga,
make tracks to Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., in downtown San
Pedro.  That's where spooky spirits in the forest continue Friday
and Saturday at 8 pm through April 4.

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Theater: Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro
Web Site: http://www.littlefishtheatre.org/
Tickets: (310) 512-6030
Dates: Through April 4, 2009