‘Don’t Hug Me’ playing at Western Reserve Playhouse
|Rob Herman and Pat Hudson share a scene in Western Reserve Playhouse’s production of “Don’t Hug Me.”|
|Photo: Michael Kermizis|
Set in Bunyan Bay, a little bar near Ely, Minn., “Don’t Hug Me” takes place during the coldest part of the winter.
Phil Olson (book and lyrics) and Paul Olson (music) attempted to make the script contemporary. However, by the second scene, the script and music take on the qualities of a bad marriage between a soap opera and a high school musical.
Clara (Pat Hudson) and Gunner (Rob Herman) own the Bunyan Bar, which isn’t attracting many customers. Gunner wants to move to Florida to avoid the Minnesota winters. Clara loves Minnesota and has learned to live with the miserable winters. Both have to face the problems in their marriage caused by his lack of romantic interest in her.
Bernice (Judith Overcash) waits tables in the bar and plans to marry Kanute Gunderson (Seth Dodds) after the spring thaw.
Their lives change dramatically and comically when Aarvid (Ken Fickey), a karaoke machine salesman, comes to the bar to make a sale. Clara finds a possibility for the bar in the karaoke machine. Gunner thinks the karaoke machine would be a waste of money.
“Don’t Hug Me” is a musical and every number is a karaoke song. However, both the music and lyrics are original for this show. The Olson brothers have written each song in a different style. In a salute to Elvis Presley, Kanute attempts to renew his love for Bernice by singing, “You’re My Woman.” Some of the lyrics are: “You’re my woman, make some babies, change the spark plugs.” Bernice isn’t pleased by his Elvis-like attempt at seduction.
The titles of some of the songs provide insight into this bit of silliness. Consider these song titles: “I’m a Walleye Woman in a Crappie Town,” “Upside Down in my Pickup Truck,” “I Wanna go to the Mall of America,” and “Victim of my Y Chromosome.”
Gunner’s character introduces many of his speeches with lines that pass for Norwegian philosophy that hasn’t been well translated. For example, he comments: “Oh, for spankin’ the neighbor’s baby.” At another time he said, “Oh, for sittin’ on the cat.” Or, “Oh, for cryin’ in the sink.”
When Clara complains to him about the lack of romance in their lives, Gunner says, “Why do we need more romance? We’re married.”
Bernice reflects on Kanute’s slow wit saying, “Maybe he did get off the boat before it reached the dock.”
This production is a sad example of a cast that is far superior to the script. The five performers sing well and could act well if given the correct material.
Director Bill Morgan keeps the action moving at a quick pace. Unfortunately, the pace sometimes destroys lines and it’s difficult to hear the words. Morgan occasionally permits his cast to get crowded together on the small stage.
“Don’t Hug Me” continues through Aug. 18. Call 330-620-7314 for ticket information.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
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