Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Catch-22" at Arts Center Is Fast-paced and Funny


Since ancient times, wise people have been writing plays and books about the insanity and futility of war. One of the greatest and most enduring of these antiwar pieces is Joseph Heller's 1961 novel "Catch-22."
The play based on the book, now playing at the Greenbelt Arts Center (GAC), retains the dark comedy and satire of the novel while being very fast-paced and hilariously funny. "Catch-22" is a production of [OutOftheBlackBox Theatre] Company, produced in cooperation with the Greenbelt Arts Center. Bill Jones, an actor well known to GAC audiences, is the director of the play and has put together an excellent cast and production.
Set in a military base in Italy towards the end of World War II, "Catch-22" is the story of one pilot, Yossarian. After witnessing the death of one of his men, Yossarian decides the military system is insane and focuses his time and energy on trying to be sent home. The events that happen to him in his quest and the people he meets all point out the absurdity of war and the foibles of human nature. The cast of characters is large but the principal characters include a dithering though well-intentioned chaplain, a colonel more concerned with his promotion than his soldiers, the private who really is in charge of the base, a zany nurse and a completely incompetent doctor.
The pace of the play is so quick that scene changes are announced through a series of flashes of the lights. Dialogue flies so fast and furiously that laughing might obscure the next few lines. The humor is madcap but with some very funny word plays.
Most of the 10 actors and actresses play multiple roles and all must be commended for their quick costume changes and ability to change characters so rapidly. Only one, the gifted Melissa Robinson, has performed at GAC before, but the entire cast is extremely talented. Jeff Mocho, a Greenbelt resident with an impressive acting resume, puts on an especially good performance as Yossarian and carries the play beautifully.
"Catch-22" is a very funny poke at war, which unfortunately seems to still be with us, and an even funnier look at humanity.
This production is not appropriate for children as it contains strong language and sexual situations.
"Catch-22" will play on the Friday and Saturday evenings of June 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 8 pm. A Sunday matinee is scheduled for June 14 at 2pm. Reservations may be made through the box office at 301-44-8770 or at the Greenbelt Arts Center at 123 Centerway, located beneath the Co-op supermarket.

Yossarian (Jeff Mocho, in bed) pleads illness to be released from the military with funny consequences. Other cast members from the left to right - Melissa Robinson, Greg Miloro and Greg Mangiapane. (Photo by Betsy Marks Delaney)

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