There’s something very familiar about Splash, the latest concoction from PB&J Theatre Factory. Maybe it’s the summer-sun soundtrack, from the songs that everyone sang (Nat King Cole’s “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer”) to those they didn’t (the Angels’ “You Can’t Take My Boyfriend’s Woody”). Or maybe it’s the tiny airplane with the big, big banner welcoming you to Sugar Shores, where pretty much everything that ever happened in the summer happens here.
That’s good and bad for PB&J Theatre Factory’s latest comedy, which floats along on some of the group’s inspired physical shtick but somehow feels a little old-hat. Even with this show’s trusty metal detector, you’re not going to be able to mine much that hasn’t been mined already about the realm of surfer dudes and surfer chicks. And maybe it’s the over-used setting that makes too many of Splash’s jokes fall flat.
PB&J has built itself a swell little style of physical comedy, with movement tied to the simplest of props, to Mike Gill’s inventive sound effects and to words turned into nonsense. In Splash, the cast avoids the usual playbill but introduces itself with a series of the plainest of signs; a stuffed shark appears on a stick and another one on somebody’s head, and a flock of seagulls makes a noise that sounds like “gull, gull, gull.”
(Even funnier is the sound of a flock of British tourists, who all turn down sunscreen – is it verboten on the British Isles? – but make a sound that completely defines who they are.)
This time around, the story centers on a woebegone young woman (Kate Zaloumes) who works a humdrum job but escapes to the beach for the summer. There she zeroes in on a hipster hunk (Jason Horne) – but he’s only interested in the blond lifeguard (Becky Eck), whose tacky long fright wig doesn’t disguise the fact that she, along with Horne, Brandon Roberts and Mark Koenig, play about three-quarters of the other people in the show.
Horne is nicely egotistical and Eck nicely appalling, and Roberts and Koenig are utterly convincing as hot dogs and gulls. All four of them by now have perfected PB&J’s hyper-realistic style, which allows them to look completely blasé and completely silly at the same time.
But Zaloumes, who’s a newcomer to PB&J, doesn’t have that same blithe spirit: The role she plays is sweet, but as the only quasi-normal character onstage she’s left to sigh and roll her eyes at the audience. That’s not her fault; the show’s direction (which is credited to the entire company) doesn’t really give her anything to do.
And too much of the script this time around doesn’t work. A joke about a multitude of shells (and Shelleys) isn’t especially funny; neither is one about a shark needing a friend. And a sequence with gulls smoking pipes and lifting barbells flew right by me: What was that?
Still, you get the sounds of a nearly empty sunscreen bottle (who knew you could substitute that for a whoopee cushion?) and you get the sights of the PB&Jers twisting with inflatable beach balls and effortlessly learning to surf. There’s something lovably nerdy about these folks, who look no more like beach gods and goddesses than they do gulls or hot dogs but who throw themselves into every character (and every foodstuff) they play. Memories are made of such as this.
What: Orlando Shakespeare Theater presentation of PB&J Theatre Factory comedy.
Where: Goldman Theater, Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando.
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 1.
Cost: $15 general, $12 seniors and students.
Call: 407-447-1700 Ext. 1.
What else: Also, Aug. 27-29 at University Theatre, University of Central Florida, Orlando. Tickets and further info for UCF presentation: 407-823-1500.
Photo, left to right: Jason Horne, Becky Eck, Mark Koenig, Brandon Roberts and Kate Zaloumes. Photo courtesy of PB&J Theatre Factory.