Washington City Paper - April 1-7, 2005

The Ring Cycle! The Musical The Landless Theatre doesn't manage to pack all of the butt-numbingness of Wagner's 15-hour Ring Cycle into its production of The Ring Cycle! The Musical, but it does inspire a fair bit of restlessness. Jeff Goode's 90-minute, four-actor spoof of Wagner's four-piece epic takes an ambitious stab at several simultaneous, twisted plots involving gods, giants, dwarves, and mortals and their quest for an all-powerful golden ring. Convoluted subplots and supporting characters from the original are liberally trimmed, leaving a frame that depends on the audience's operatic expertise to support many of its jokes. In addition to Larrance Fingerhut's more-goofy-than-funny musical parodies, Goode has added play-within-play action--an accompanist who keeps leaving to tend to his wife in labor, a playhouse manager who rushes the troupe toward the finale--that was perhaps intended to fill the gaps in understanding but, instead, piles on the chaos. Director Andrew Lloyd Baughman's frantic staging at the Tivoli Theater does little to clear up any confusion, though it does have its moments of yuk. Baughman bickers with his own hand as giants Fasolt and Fafner, Fasolt represented as a sightless sock puppet; when Fafner kills Fasolt, pitching the tube sock to the floor, Baughman draws genuine laughs--and more than a few heartfelt "aw"s. Salma Quarnain and Jill Vanderweit also indulge in over-the-topness, a vibe more suited to their roles as Valkyrie Brünnhilde and schemimg dwarf Mime than as goddess sisters Freya and Fricka. Rounding out the cast is Darryl Winston, whose pleasing baritone isn't put to enough use. If Winston is a bit stiff even as the autocratic god-king Wotan, Goode's script doesn't give him much to work with. The set is spare, but every prop and bit of costume is part of the gag: Mermaid Barbies stand in as the three Rhinemaidens, and Mime's elasticized hump shifts to and fro amusingly. However, none of these playful touches save the play from Goode's overreaching, and somewhat tiresome, wackiness. (AM) Tivoli Theatre 3333 14th St. NW. $10 (301) 639-5265