SINBAD THE SAILORby Dennis Millegan
Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Director: Daniel Baugh
Assistant Director: Dennis G. W. Millegan
Fight Choreographer: Andrew Dillon
Stage Manager/Costume Assistant: Frances Seman
Costume Design: Christina McGowan
Lighting Design: Jeff Vance
Set Design: Rodney Dobbs
Sound Design: David H. M. Lambert
Properties: Vicki Booker
Lighting Director: Phil White
Galgo the Great: Chris Briseno
Grand Wazir Caliph Shazal: Joey Dietz
Mohar: Patrick Douglass
Monica: Marci Fermier
Antalatius: Robert Long
Hares: Jon Paul McGowan
Yasmin: Alexis Nabors
Hiram: Scott Nixon
Princess Nahia-Shazal: Shanie Schwartzman
Hashasin: Trey Simpkins
Al Karim: Michael Speck
Sinbad: Matt Stepanek
Agnes: Jenny Stoneking
Jaffar: Stephen Witkowicz
Reviewed Performance: 7/13/2012
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The show starts with the cast leading the audience in a sing-a-long of two (semi-)original songs to get the interactive vibe of the show moving. Almost immediately the popcorn starts flying, showering the cast and anybody ahead of the thrower with fluffy, white kernels. After the singing concludes, instructions are given to the audience. Acts of heroism are to be cheered, acts of villainy are to be booed, and anything especially sweet or sad should be greeted with a heartfelt "awwww".
The first basket of popcorn (per couple attending) is free. Additional baskets can be purchased during both intermissions for 50 cents a basket. Such inexpensive ordnance gives the audience plenty of opportunity to express their enthusiasm for the play. It also provides an opening for inter-audience hi-jinks. One particular seven year-old in the back row found himself in a "popcorn war" with the table in front of him. By the end of a night a truce was called and all parties involved were happy with its resolution. However, the theater did sustain heavy debris as a result, leaving the floor an inch deep in spent corn kernels.
I am impressed with the efficient use of space in the small Pocket Sandwich Theatre. Not only is there an adequate, multi-leveled playing space for Sinbad the Sailor, they also fit enough tables and seating into the space to have a dinner theater. The seating area can serve 100+ people comfortably and does allow any audience member to miss a part of the show. Rodney Dobbs' set design is great for this production. With six entrance/exit points, the action of the play can move smoothly, even allowing a Scooby-Doo-like chase scene in the third act. I very much enjoy the color palettes Dobbs chooses for the different acting areas. The Grand Wazir's palace is decorated in a fine sandy pastel scheme, while the "ship" and "castle/tower" settings stage left and right are done in cartoon like details. In this instance, simplicity is best answer.
In a comic melodrama, elements like the costumes should be taken to humorous degrees. Sadly, this is not done much in Sinbad the Sailor. Although all of the costumes look great, the only truly funny costume element employed is the size of the Grand Wazir's hot air balloon-like hat. Agnes, the witch, and her shadowy assistant, as well as the two-headed ogre look too plain for their comedic roles. A few embellishments could draw a few more laughs from the audience and hold their attention longer.
Vicki Booker does a wonderful job assembling and gathering props appropriate for the show. A few interesting props are crafted for Sinbad the Sailor. My favorites are the several magic carpet gags. The first magic carpet prop comes as a small surprise, eliciting a hearty laugh.
One problem Sinbad the Sailor has is forgettable characters. There are so many on the cast list, I cannot recall their actual role. Those who do present memorable performances are very good and enjoyable in their roles.
Matt Stepanek in the eponymous role of Sinbad the Sailor is humorously arrogant in his sense of navigation. He insists he doesn't get lost, he explores. His costume has elements of Errol Flynn and Capt. Jack Sparrow. Stepanek's performance is cute and fun.
Sinbad's love interest, Princess Nahia-Shazal, played by Shanie Schwartzman, is a strong willed woman who won't let frightening wizards and oceans stand between her love and herself. Schwartzman turns in the best performance of the show. Her motivations are believable and according to her co-stars, her changes are quite impressive.
The evil Al Karim, played by Michael Speck, murders his own mother in the first five minutes of Sinbad the Sailor. He also bears the brunt of the popcorn storms on the stage although there are those who will toss popcorn upon anybody who comes within striking range. Speck's performance is full of pompous arrogance as he struts across the stage. He obviously spent some time studying for his role watching classic comic villains and copying their mannerisms and speech patterns. I enjoyed his performance very much and hope to see him in more shows in the future.
Alexis Nabors plays the sultry Yasmin, Princess Nahia-Shazal's maid-servant. She seems to have the most fun in her role, playing up the sexiness of her costume and character. She is a lot of fun to watch and always seems to be trying to sneak something extra into her performance for anybody watching.
I would like to say I enjoyed every minute of the show, but it is too long. With a run time of two and a half hours, including intermissions, Pocket Sandwich Theatre could cut an hour out of the show and have an excellent production. It is like eating a gallon of ice cream. Too much of a good thing will leave you wary to go back.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre
5400 E. Mockingbird Lane. #119, Dallas, TX 75206
Runs through August 25th
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm &Sundays at 7:00pm
($2 off any night for seniors 60+ and juniors 12 and under)
For information, go to www.pocketsandwich.com
Or call (214) 821-1860 (2:00 to 6:00 pm daily)