- Aristophanes refurbished: Point Park's The Frogs.
If I were the lazy sort, I'd just activate the thesaurus in the software program and run paragraphs of text listing all the synonyms for the word "delightful." Such a move might make a mockery of my astronomical salary, but it would also, certainly, be the perfect review of Point Park Conservatory Theatre's production of The Frogs.
Once upon a time, or about 2,500 years ago, Mr. Aristophanes wrote a little comedy called The Frogs, about the god Dionysus and his slave Xanthias traveling down to Hades to bring Euripides back to earth. (And they say there's only 10 plots!) Jump to 1974 A.D. Burt Shevelove and Stephen Sondheim -- the men behind A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum -- create a site-specific, freestyle adaptation of The Frogs at Yale; the site, specifically, is the school's swimming pool, and features students such as Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Durang.
Two years ago, Nathan Lane adapted the Shevelove adaptation, with new Sondheim songs, and the show had a short but respectable run on Broadway.
And that brings us to this wildly entertaining Point Park production, directed by Scott Wise, with musical direction by Douglas Levine and choreography by Zeva Barzell. From start to finish this is just one of the most enchanting shows you could wish for. By turns goofy and urbane, bawdy and haunting, high-brow and low-down, The Frogs is, quite simply, mesmerizing. (See, I told you I'd need that thesaurus.)
But mostly what it is, with Wise and company at the helm, is a showcase for an exemplary cast of musical-theater performers. Dale Spollett and Jordan Grubb, as Dionysos and Xanthias, seem nothing so much as an old vaudeville team time-warped onto the Playhouse stage. It's sheer bliss to watch the chemistry between Spollett's off-kilter way of underplaying a gag and Grubb's razor-sharp timing. Thomas Sullivan's turn as the leonine Herakles is as funny as it is fearless, and Adam Chisnall's Paul Lynde-inspired Pluto is hoot. And I don't have words to describe Kevin Doyle's priceless turn as both Charon and Aekos -- how this kid manages to create laughs out of thin air is a show-biz miracle.
And those are just the lead roles; there's not enough space to mention everyone, but please be assured that everyone is luminous -- thanks in no small part to Michael Thomas Essad's stunning set, Don DiFonzo's costumes (his Amazon princess outfit deservedly gets its own applause) and Andrew David Ostrowski's shimmering light design.
Between The Frogs and its earlier production of Ragtime, Point Park has just about exhausted my supply of adjectives.The Frogs continues through Tue., Feb. 27. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. 412-621-4445