When the high point of a performance is a song about bacon, you have to wonder about the low points. Wonder no more, good gents and ladies. Let me expound upon the Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s production of Cox and Box.
When Judy Gardner, the accompanist, started playing Gilbert & Sullivan’s overture, I was excited because of her command of the keys. But the excited ended as soon as Tom Goode appeared as the swindling landlord Bouncer. Supposedly notorious for renting one room to two men, he spent the entire time looking innocently surprised for no particular reason. I found it annoying because he had the air of a man who thought perpetually raising his eyebrows was actually funny.
Imagine two singing vacuum cleaners crisscrossing on stage and you’ll get a good idea of the type of action and noise in this performance. Please don’t misunderstand; I thought the singing was good (though the duets were a little rough). It wasn’t the singing that got to me, but the overall presentation of the comedy.
There were a lot of unpracticed and sloppy entrances. A minor problem, you might say, except that this type of comedy depends on the characters’ perfectly timed and supposedly accidental and unwanted appearances. Amid the clumsy-vacuum-cleaner-action, I got the feeling that the actors thought that lots of respiratory noise was hilarious. Or maybe they were just out of shape. When they pretended to fight with spoons they looked very much as if they didn’t want to throw out their backs. The latent slapstick of the play was never fully realized.
I have to slam the VLOC for the lack of time or money (you can make up for the lack of one with the other) they put into this performance. The costume of Mr. Cox was offensively “thrown-together.” One of the main props was a couch, which doubled as a bed, which doubled as a car seat, which doubled as a-well you get the point. It was adorned with a blanket and one of those pillows you get on planes (how did they get their hands on that one?) and didn’t really look like any of the above. I don’t have anything against putting junk on stage, but it has to be there for a reason. This production had no apparent aesthetic whatsoever. The last straw for me was the “mutton chop” that could be no other than the squeaky toy I saw in PetSmart when I was shopping for Spot (hypothetical dog created for rhetorical effect).
But I began this review by hinting about a song featuring the other “white meat.” I can’t finish without bringing up the moment when true light opera gleamed through. It came when Mr. Box sang to his breakfast. I wish I could tell you the name of this bacon-crooning fellow, but alas, the hastily put-together program left him out all together. And so I conclude, do it right, ladies and gents, from the program to the props. And if the situation requires, sing opera to your bacon.
- Running Time: 45 minutes
- Remaining Shows: Cox and Box has closed.