Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Directed by LisaAnne Haram
Set Design by Rodney Dobbs and Robert Stribling
Costume Design by Phineas Bennett
Lighting Design by Jeff Vance
Sound Design by David H.M. Lambert
Properties by Vicki Booker
Pianist - George Gagliardi
Pianist - Timothy Flippo
Vicki Booker - Mrs. Koogle
Joey Dietz - Captain Potts
Lane Joseph - Rin-Sing, Sam-Yang
Allison Minton - Florrabelle Capps
Timothy Turner-Parrish - The Dacoit
Kristin "K." Rea - Fah-Lo
Staci Cook - Lisa Goodbody
Joel Frapart - Lt. Karrigan
Tom McWhorte r- Sir Lionel Barton
George Morris - Dr. Sterling Petrie
Kenneth Pursell - Nayland Smith
Maggie Smith - Amanda Barton
Travis Cook - Fu Manchu
Reviewed Performance 4/7/2012
Reviewed by Kayla Barrett, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Pocket Sandwich Theatre has been around for over 30 years. They are named after their infamous pita sandwiches (which are delicious by the way), they are best known for their popcorn-throwing melodramas, and their slogan is "The Most Fun You Can Have in a Dallas Theatre". Walking in the door, I saw a giant dragon on the wall, which I assume came from a set, and an eclectic assortment of headshots, art, license plates and various props decorating the venue. The theatre has completely optimized the space with seating and tables with optimal lighting. The place is charming.
No two chandeliers are alike and photos on the wall seem to have escaped from the online collection Awkward Family Photos. The playbill is full of great nonsense, going so far as crediting fictional "Arachnologist" Virgil Optic for the spiders in the show. Pocket Sandwich Theatre finds humor in just about everything! It's a place where you can enjoy good food, great service and an excuse to throw popcorn (as if you needed one), but enough about what you already know - on with the show!
Fu Manchu-The Melodrama is a silly spoof full of one-liners, plenty of PG-13 innuendos and physical comedy. The many characters can be a little confusing and at times it is hard to figure out who is who. The ultimate bad guy is Fu Manchu, played by Travis Cook, who will go to any lengths to uncover the missing ingredients for his eternal youth potion.
With the help of his servants The Dacoit, played by Timothy Turner-Parrish, Fah-Lo, played by Kristin Rea, and his fuzzy giant pet spider (courtesy of Virgil Optic), Fu Manchu hopes to live forever. Fah-Lo is a fitting name for Rea's character that follows Fu Manchu and obeys his every command. She is cute and meek, much like the stereotypical anime girls who play the innocent damsels in distress. Her voice is perfectly mousey as she sings a song in a brainwashed trance.
Timothy Turner-Parrish is great as The Dacoit, who helps Fu Manchu by finding and kidnapping young girls. He shows his excitement over pretty women in several punch lines. As he gives his hostage an injection to knock her out he states in his Asian accent "Steel will, iron fist, but patootie soft!"
Travis Cook is hilarious as Fu Manchu. Though you naturally want to dislike the villain, it's hard to dislike one that is so funny. His comedic timing is flawless and his improvisations are hysterical. He at one point beats his servant, Fah-Lo, with a whip in a scene that might have been dramatic had he not followed the threats with... "No Face book!" Cook stays true to the melodrama genre and excites audiences with his absurdities.
Florrabelle Capps, played by Allison Minton, and Sir Lionel Barton, played by Tom McWhorter make a great team. Minton plays a raunchy maid with a cockney accent and an appetite for male attention. McWhorter portrays a distinguished person who constantly wants to talk about his discoveries and books at the risk of boring everyone to death. Barton and Ms. Capps are funny when romancing one another with silly verbal and physical innuendos. Amidst the popcorn-throwing audience, Minton even bends over and catches a cluster of popcorn in her bosom! (The audience cheers!)
When Lionel's spoiled daughter Amanda, played by Maggie Smith, is kidnapped, the good-guys must put their heads together to overcome Fu Manchu and his men. Good-guys Dr. Sterling Petrie, Nayland Smith, and Lt. Karrigan played respectively by George Morris, Kenneth Pursell and Joel Frapart, play stereotypical detectives of the twenties. Their characters are a bit hard to follow but the slapstick and wit is entertaining.
The whole cast does a wonderful job executing stage combat. The fight choreography is designed by Andrew Dillon. The fighting is exciting and a few of the blows and flips look painful! The hair and makeup are detailed and I love the masks that are worn by the victims of Fu Manchu's killer spider.
The music in this melodrama queues the audience when to boo, hiss or ahh, but it also offers some laughs. Anytime Captain Potts, played by Joey Dietz enters the stage the Beverly Hills Cop theme song is played. Dietz plays a bumbling law enforcement officer who spends most of his time practicing golf by driving popcorn off the stage. You also meet prostitute Liza Goodbody, played by Staci Cook, who tells a theatre patron he owes her "two pennies from last time", acrobatics Rin-Sing and Sam-Yang, played by Lane Joseph, and sweet old lady Mrs. Koogle, played by Vicki Booker.
The designers do a wonderful job representing places and themes. Set designers Rodney Dobbs and Robert Stribling create a cute and functional set. Set dressings include Chinese decor such as sculpted dragons, painted spider webs and the colors black, gold, red and green. Jeff Vance's lighting designs include bamboo gobo lights in scenes when Fu Manchu takes control, and blue and green lights and a waving sheet to represent a water scene. Fu Manchu's black and red silk "pajama" costume is one of many good costumes designed by Phineas Bennett.
While some characters are hard to follow, every one of them makes you laugh. This show is made for fun and written just for laughs. This quirky theatre troupe has put their hearts and funny bones into Fu Manchu- The Melodrama and the excitement is contagious. The audience has a great time throwing popcorn at each other and enjoying the show. Pocket Sandwich Theatre offers a fun show and an experience you won't forget.
FU MANCHU ? THE MELODRAMA
Pocket Sandwich Theatre
5400 E. Mockingbird, Suite 119, Dallas, TX 75206
Plays through May 19th
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 7:00pm
For tix & more info: www.pocketsandwich.com or call the box office at 214-821-1860.