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Posted at 5:44 PM ET, 07/16/2009

'Pepe' the Suburban Life Musical

By Stephanie Merry
Fringe Festival

It's pretty amazing that a play called "Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical" could be based on actual events, but such is the life of Washington Glass School founder Tim Tate. As it turns out, when he and his brother were kids, they ordered a monkey from a comic book, throwing their neighborhood into a tizzy. And also setting up the premise of a funny and strange mixed-bag of a musical.

But "Pepe" is less about the monkey and more about life in suburbia, including housewife malaise, bridge tournaments, social climbing and drinking excessively, especially while pregnant. The unexpected plot direction wasn't a bad thing, what with fun choreographed housewife dances and a bridge party musical number. But so much of the fun of the play was derived from scenes with the brothers that I found myself thinking about what might have been.

The two actors who played the brothers threw themselves completely into their roles. Cyle Durkee nearly stole the show as Tim, a child unable to hide his frustrations or, more often, his glee. He usually sported the infectious expression of someone mid-tickle. Meanwhile, John Moriarty, who played older brother Chris, was the troublemaker of the two, complete with a little bit of crazy in his eyes.

In truth, all of the actors did a tremendous job, even if the script tended to be inconsistent. While songs like "It's Here" sounded catchy and polished, other numbers felt awkward, seemingly written only with "what rhymes with...?" in mind. But the material seemed less important than the delivery. Pepe (played by Helen Hayes-winner Rick Hammerly in a striped union suit) had the audience rolling with his number about being stuck in a box on his way from Florida to suburbia. And all the giggling was really the result of his hilarious facial expressions and melodramatic tone.

Overall, "Pepe" may not have been what I expected, but it was a worthwhile experience, especially when we're grading on the Fringe scale.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | July 16, 2009; 5:44 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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I saw it Wed., genuinely funny.

Posted by: jbindc | July 17, 2009 6:15 AM | Report abuse

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