And now for something completely different. The sublimely silly Monty Python spoof "Spamalot" is holding court at City Lights Theater Company in San Jose through Aug. 31.
While Jeffrey Bracco's exuberant revival lacks the comic virtuosity of the original Broadway version, there's no denying the sheer giggle-inducing catharsis of spending a few hours basking in killer rabbits, Finnish fish-slapping songs and knights who say "Ni!" If you need a little reminder to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," this meta-theatrical blast of British balderdash will have you grinning from the first flatulence joke to the last Bubonic plague lampoon. If you know your "Life of Brian" from your "Meaning of Life," this musical, which lovingly rips off "The Holy Grail" will hit your sweet spot and then some.
What this production lacks in polish and finesse, it more than makes up for in its sincere appreciation for all that is brainless and cheesy and its full-throttle energy. The folks at nearby Psycho Donuts have even gotten into the act by unveiling a "Spam Wellington" doughnut that is tastier than you might suspect. By the way, you don't have to worry about cheating on your diet, because what happens in this Camelot stays in this Camelot.
None shall pass up this delightful stroll down daffiness lane. Eric Idle's snappy book and lyrics never miss a chance to tickle the funny bone as the addled King Arthur (Ken Boswell) launches his nit-witted adventure for the Holy Grail with the help of the Lady of the Lake (Clara Rose Walker) and her Laker Girls (don't ask). The puns hit the fan, and potty humor goes into overdrive as the show makes fun of everyone and everything in all of existence. Among those poked fun at are the monarchy, the French and the religious. Don't even get me started on the song about the Jews.
But at the end of the day, the realm that gets mocked the most may well be Broadway. No target on the Great White Way is safe; from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Sondheim to Les Miz.
While the staging suffers from some sluggish pacing and poor elocution, which undercuts the text's mash-up of silliness and erudition, the Python material is, as ever, irresistible. For the record, there is no lack of wit to this festival of wackiness. The play buttresses all its tomfoolery with tart historical and socioeconomic analysis, not to mention a passionate avowal of gay marriage.
Some of the ensemble lacks the deadpan delivery this brand of outrageousness demands, but several performers stand out. Nick Manfredi shines as the cowardly Sir Robin, Mackenzie Drae makes a wonderfully snide French taunter as well as a gallant Lancelot, and Jeremy Ryan steals more than one scene as not-dead Fred and the mincing Prince Herbert. For her part, Walker drips with presence as the put-upon diva, even though she gets saddled with too many refrains of "The Song That Goes Like This."
Jennifer Gorgulho's high-voltage choreography also frames the hyperactive farce well, and Ron Gasparinetti (set designer), Erin Haney (costumes) and Caroline Clark (props) do ingenious work with limited resources.
Indeed, the air-conditioning was on the fritz at a recent performance, a state of affairs that taxed the audience as greatly as the cast, given the intense summer heat. Still, the quest for a standing ovation was fulfilled, which goes to show that Monty Python's brand of tongue-in-cheek never gets old.
Book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, presented by City Lights Theater Company
Through: Aug. 31
Where: 529 S. Second. St., San Jose
Running time: 2 hours,
15 minutes, one intermission