By Manuel Mendoza
10:55 AM on Nov 3, 2023
Ochre House Theater founder Matthew Posey pulls a fast one in his latest musical comedy, Kaput: The Show. What starts off as a silly, politically incorrect sendup of ethnic stereotypes, gender fluidity and human foibles turns poignant in its final scenes — tears of laughter transformed into tears of empathy.
Written and directed by Posey, Kaput follows the adventures of Captain Chuck (Brian Witkowicz) aboard his tugboat Tappy (Erin Everywhere). Yes, a person plays a boat, one that smokes a bong. They seek the magical island of the title and the captain’s missing wife, Annabelle Leigh.
Soon they take on two passengers, the machine-gun-toting French revolutionary Tulip (Janet Dodd) and her young brother Poppy (Lauren Massey), who yearns to be a girl.
Along the way, they encounter a bevy of obstacles, including flying sea monkeys and Monty the Moray Eel (Brad Hennigan in one of several roles), who tries to eat the captain.
The heroes encounter their greatest enemy on a new version of Kaput run by Nazis, Hennigan portraying the sinister and lecherous Mr. Stairwell and the rubber-faced Cassie Bann as his encouraging, incorrigible sidekick Miss Maxwell.
Kaput is replete with foul language, in-your-face sexual innuendo and enough exaggerated French, British and German accents to drive a Marx Brothers movie. The cast is uniformly game, leaning into the broad humor with abandon.
At Wednesday’s show, there was even a seventh would-be actor, an audience member in the front row of Ochre House’s tiny storefront performance space in Exposition Park who exclaimed and gestured along with the paid cast. It only added to the jocular mood created by the troupe’s handmade brand of theater.
Design elements play their part in making Kaput’s low-tech approach so charming: the cardboard set designed by Posey and built by Izk Davies; simple, character-building costumes by Ryan Matthieu Smith; scene-stealing puppets that include dancing legs and a couple of ventriloquist dummies by Posey, Davies, Justin Locklear and Kevin Grammer; and half a dozen story-building songs, with lyrics by Posey and music by Locklear, performed by the trio of Elijah Clements (accordion), Aaron Carlo Gonzalez (bass) and Gregg Prickett (guitar).
Dodd and Massey have particularly beautiful voices. Most touching, Poppy emerges from behind a curtain in the final scene, her wish fulfilled, and croons a triumphant tune. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Through Nov. 18 at 825 Exposition Ave. $12-20. Nov. 6, pay what you can. ochrehousetheater.org.