APRIL 19, 2010

Scotch’n’Soda’s show gets down and dirty
Student theater group unveils its production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at this year’s Carnival

By Shweta Suresh, The Tartan, April 19, 2010

Shannon Deep, Photo Credit: Guillermo GomezWith the group’s annual Carnival performance this year, Scotch’n’Soda put on “the perfect con,” which, according to director Alex DiClaudio, is synonymous with succeeding at putting on a good bit of theater and getting paid to do so.

This year’s play, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, showcased the acting and singing talents of the Scotch’n’Soda cast. The performance featured most of the win-win elements the theater group usually employs: strong voices, catchy numbers, great acting, and a hilarious plotline.

The story followed the tale of two conmen: Lawrence (played by senior music major Scott Wasserman) and Freddy (sophomore music major Sean Pack), who are brought together by Freddy’s desire to be tutored by the more experienced Lawrence and earn “great big stuff.” Lawrence rakes in the cash by following a straightforward routine: find a wealthy woman traveling alone in France, woo her by pretending to be a prince, and then take her money by acting helpless and without funds to support an ongoing war.

While not central to the plot, one of the highlights of the play was the scene in which Lawrence coaches Freddy by asking him to observe as he woos a Ms. Jolene Oaks from Oklahoma (senior BHA creative enterprise management major Shannon Deep). Deep’s performance as Jolene, complete with her loud accent and a rhinestone-studded pink cowboy hat over blond curls, was powerful. She took the stage by storm during the “Oklahoma!” number, firing imaginary bullets in the air as she danced and sang.

Shannon Deep, Photo Credit: Paul CombePack’s performance also deserves special mention. When Lawrence’s plans with Jolene fall through, Freddy comes to his rescue by pretending to be Lawrence’s mentally disabled younger brother Ruprecht. In what can only be described as a mildly disgusting performance, Freddy succeeds in scaring Jolene away with his obscene gestures and repulsive habits — actions that Pack performed remarkably, much to the delight and distaste of the audience.

The contrast between Lawrence’s stuffy, poised demeanor and Freddy’s vulgar, energetic personality is interesting to watch. This comparison is highlighted when they begin to compete against each other, testing who can con the innocent Christine (sophomore music major Gillian Hassert) first. Hassert also shone during the performance, impressing the audience with her strong vocal skills.

As Lawrence and Freddy compete, they depict the underlying frustration between greed and morals that they face as they go through with their sneaky plans. When Lawrence discovers that Christine is not really wealthy, he feels guilty and, realizing how noble she is, even starts having feelings for her. Freddy, on the other hand, is late in hearing the call of his conscience.
Providing additional comedy were Lawrence’s sidekick Andre (BHA student Steven Tietjen) and a victim of Lawrence’s cons Muriel (senior music major Melissa Johnson). Andre and Muriel’s parallel love story provided much laughter. Tietjen’s impeccable French accent was a source of much of the hilarity.

The supporting cast entertained well with choreographed dance numbers and also provided strong vocal support for the lead singers. The actors shuffled among playing the roles of butlers and French maids, ticket checkers, sailors, and tourists.

Wasserman, also the artistic director of Scotch’n’Soda, was particularly impressive in the ease with which he transitioned from an American con artist to a German psychiatrist. His thick German accent, complete with yodels when he sang, was simultaneously hilarious and surprising.

With a surprise ending, Scotch’n’Soda succeeded in raising the audience members to their feet at the end of another great show.