In the heart of Capitol Hill, Annex Theatre has officially gotten underway with it’s 25th season. First up is Cocktails at the Centre of the Earth, written and directed by Simon Astor. It’s a steampunk comedy of manners with self-winding clockwork men, mummies, a fox talking through a translation device, singing, stripping, and of course, cocktails. It’s entirely silly, borderline precious, and a lot of fun. Tickets are $15. It’s showing Thursday-Saturday at 8:00PM, and it’s running through February 25th. Go. You’ll have fun.
Cocktails has a big cast. There are factions, groups. There’s the mummy robber baron and his family, there’s the talking fox. There are the waitresses, the singers, the suicide bombers, the fop, the secretly married, and the robotic. Do you have all that well in hand? Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are going to follow these people as they jetpack and pneumatic tube themselves from lounges on blimps to a party at the center of the earth. Did I mention there’s singing? There’s singing. Also a live band, and you can drink in the theatre.
Annex Theatre is itself pretty awesome. It’s at the top of a flight of stairs. Right inside is the bar. There are lots of doors that you can’t open that lead to different Narnias. It all feels very lived-in, which is not to say dingy. It just feels like a well-used space. It’s cosy, and they pride themselves on putting on shows that involve big casts, ambitious sets- the hard work of small theatre. Cocktails fits the bill for their mission statement like a monocle fits with a waxed mustache.
It’s not a perfect show. None of the characters give you much with which to identify. Their fates aren’t crucial, and there’s not much in the way of character development. That said, Cocktails is a lot of fun to watch. Some of the best things about the show were the little touches, like the clouds, and the fire. I don’t want to ruin it, so I won’t. Just, when you go, watch for the clouds. It’s kind of like the whole show exists within a somewhat childish imagination. The dialogue is intentionally arch. The puns are relentless. Everything is kind of trapped in a conceit, but it’s not a big deal. The laughs are real, and the pacing is decent. The purpose of this play is to completely divorce you from anything serious for two hours, to show you people having fun putting on a wantonly silly and fun show. It’s about mummies and robots and lust and love, with a hundred little jokes thrown everywhere, like glitter cardboard stars. That’s the aim, and they’ve hit that mark. It’s big, and crazy, at times lovely, and funny as hell.
Photo Credit: Ian Johnston some rights reserved