The conclusion of The Addams Family, the latest production from Morro Bay High’s drama club, on April 23rd marks another success from drama director Ms Kostecka’s cast and crew. The catchy, somewhat avant-garde musical follows a household that seems to invert the classic American nuclear family – the Addams family is gothic and macabre; an old-money clan who delight in torture and death. An extensive conversation could be had about the bizarrely fascinating writing featured in the Addams Family musical (one of dozens of iterations of a New Yorker political cartoon dating back to the late 30s), of its glorification of mortality and despondency without delving into the associate philosophy or its ramifications, but far more relevant is the discussion of the performance itself.
The Addams Family is the first Morro Bay production to be held in the school’s new theater, complete with such mind-blowing technology as a stage, thanks to the latest in the multi-year Measure D project (see the upcoming article in our May paper edition of the Spyglass). With the theater comes a new technical proficiency from behind the stage, with audio and lighting equipment assumedly being far easier to operate in a space equipped to do so. With the exception of one minor mic issue, the entire production was excellent on a craft level, with the electric set and amusing props enhancing the odd bohemian tone that is so associated with Addams Family. And, as is true of any show or presentation, this renovation of sight and sound significantly improved the caliber of entertainment and overall quality, as well.
To start, The Addams Family has a wonderful and very active ensemble, consisting of “ancestors” of the family that mysteriously range from Vikings to ballerinas to painters. Zoe Behlers, Rylee Blackham, Jamie Hendel De La O, Grace Lindsey, Justine Mayo, Jocelyn Ocampo-Mateo, Zyra Pascua, and Sofia Steen do an excellent job of bringing the stage to light with their antics; livening the family dynamic to more than the sum of its parts. Valerie Merson’s disillusioned Alice and Lucas Huss’s gruff, traditionalist Mal Beineke have oddly oriented yet ultimately satisfying arcs that culminate in a nice final scene for the two, while their son Lucas Beineke is played by Caleb Hudson in a charmingly naive and gentle performance. All three Beinekes – a traditional, middle-class family – are a fun contrast to the zany antics of the Addamses.
Every member of the titular Addams family is an unusual, outlandish character, with almost every actor giving a performance with more than a few quirks. The peculiarity of the performances is almost certainly what makes the show so electrically fun, with nearly every actor getting to showcase their comedic chops. It helps that the casting is seemingly tailored to each performer’s style of humor, ranging from incredibly dry to loudly bombastic. For instance, Earl Bump’s Lurch has no dialogue, his only job to stare dead-eyed at the audience and meander (lurch?) across the stage. Yet Bump makes the performance one of the funniest parts of the show, walking across the stage with a determined lack of speed or commitment that is undeniably hilarious.
In contrast to Bump, yet just as funny, is the grandma character (whose name I wasn’t able to find), played by Emerson Jacquay. Jacquay’s performance, while several decibels louder than every other line of dialogue in the show, is earsplittingly funny, with an extensive amount of makeup and hairstyling to boot. Her dynamic with the youngest Addams child, Pugsley – Angus McNellie – is a fitting encapsulation of the family; imbued with a strange, necromantic worship of the occult, yet also comfortably familial. McNellie is excellent in his own right, as well, with his “big red button” scene being a disturbing yet hilarious highlight of not only his performance, but the play in its entirety.
As if these three veritably insane people weren’t enough for this cast to handle, the infamous character of Uncle Fester is added to the mix, as portrayed by Cooper Huss. Huss, a huge standout in the past three productions put on by MBHS Drama, has never been better, playing the acutely deranged Fester with the severity of a rabid raccoon. His widened, fevered eyes and devilish grin are amazingly consistent throughout the show, and the juxtaposition between his eccentricity and Mal Beineke’s lack thereof makes for a hilarious showdown between the two Huss brothers.
Josephine Davis offers up an excellent performance as Wednesday Addams, titular character in Netflix’s Jenna Ortega-led hit and arguably the most iconic member of the Addams family. Davis’s dynamic affect lends itself nicely to Wednesday, a role which demands both cynically flat and markedly labile tones depending on the scene. Davis and Hudson’s romance never feels forced (well, maybe the marriage bits), always a natural byproduct of teenage passions and mirthful personalities. Davis even looks pleasantly relaxed while holding a wooden crossbow, an ultimate Wednesday expression.
Finally, the two leads of Addams Family, Gomez and Morticia, are played with all the boundless charisma required for the roles. Trason Leage is affable and fatherly as Gomez, successfully trying on a Latinesque accent and thin moustache, dancing across stage in a memorable host role that feels reminiscent of Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast (an upcoming production for MBHS Drama, just saying) while also playing Dad to Wednesday, being pulled every which way by his strong-willed wife and daughter.
Speaking of, Rae Ruane absolutely steals the show as Morticia Addams, her showstopping number “Just Around the Corner” absolutely defining the role as one of Addams Family‘s best. Ruane gives Morticia this silky malice that feels very defined, imbuing her with a distinct motive and mission that drive the play forward. Even when Ruane is not on stage, her acting is memorable enough that you can feel her influence over the other characters, manipulative yet motherly, wicked yet benevolent, always pulling the invisible strings that suspend and hold in place every element of The Addams Family.
In summary, Morro Bay’s The Addams Family was a memorably excellent rendition of the classic offbeat family tale. The play oozes with originality and hilarity, stopping at nothing to make its audience laugh, from the colorful, skilled cast to the mobile, highly decorative ensemble and decidedly talented crew who assembled the show’s vivid production design. Now that they are finally equipped with a real theater, there is no doubt that The Addams Family is only the beginning of what the MBHS drama program can do.