pluck – The Titanic Show
the trio ‘pluck’ is Adrian Garratt, Siân Kadifachi and Jon Regan
Directed by Cal McCrystal
Presented by The Bethesda Theatre
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
I have always thought that the mixture of classical performers and comedy is a brilliant notion since seeing the Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Opera, Doc” as a child (come on, you remember “kill the wabbit”, don’t you?). Yet ‘pluck’, a London-based string trio starring Adrian Garratt (violin), Jon Regan (viola), and Siân Kadifachi (cello), exceeded my fondest hopes with its delightful comedic talents. If you fail to catch this world-renowned group’s newest production (The Titanic Show) at The Bethesda Theatre, you will have missed a rare opportunity to see a wonderfully unique theatrical work.
‘Pluck’ is advertised as “Mozart meets Monty Python” but their current show has a little Noel Coward as well. Two musicians commissioned to perform on the inaugural voyage of the Titanic, Wallace Hartley (Garratt) and Theodore Ronald Brailey (Regan), are both very stiff upper lips Brits despite the fact that lowly musicians are treated as second-class citizens. To their consternation, their plans are upset by a third stowaway musician, a very strange little man named Roger Bricoux (Kadifachi). This mysterious musician seems unusually familiar with their repertoire and even their performing outfits.
The musicians researched the history of the Titanic and the actual music contained in the White Star Line Songbook that may have been played on that fateful voyage. Actual historical fact about the Titanic is included in the show’s intermittent narration and even through archival footage shown on the huge porthole projection screen on the set. Yet the history and even the music take a back seat to some outstanding comic sequences.
Much of the comedy results from classic clown techniques. The show’s director, Cal McCrystal, is one of world’s leading creators of clown shows. For example, one funny piece involves the efforts of the three musicians to assemble and mount deck chairs while still playing a Verdi composition. One highlight involves a hilariously choreographed bit of silent comedy as Garratt tries to avoid the nonverbal advances of Bricoux and communicate the problem to Brailey.
The dry humor and occasional corny puns in the dialogue are also entertaining as the three characters adjust to each other and experience difference aspects of the voyage. In addition, two different films utilize the three players while lampooning the conventions of silent movies. Finally, the production makes witty use of several props, including the inevitable iceberg.
Along the way, the audience is treated to virtuoso renditions of 22 different compositions. Most numbers are spliced with comic business, but the performance of “Nearer My God To Thee” (immortalized in the film A Night to Remember as being performed by the musicians while the Titanic sank) is played with touching seriousness. Along the way we gradually learn the secret of the third musician before the story reaches a comically surreal conclusion.
pluck – The Titanic Show is charming entertainment suitable for the whole family. This imaginative comedy of inspired silliness had me smiling nonstop. Walk, run, or swim to The Bethesda Theatre while you still have the chance to experience the joy of a comic cruise unlike anything you have every experienced.
Running Time: 1:35 with one intermission
Where: Bethesda Theatre, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD
When: Through March 1st. Wed through Sat at 8 pm, matinees Sat and Sun at 2 pm