By Nathan Hemminger
Full of intentional bluntness and a cast of characters whose personalities are as diverse as they are unique, Urinetown, the theater department’s latest Studio One production, is a hilariously strange show that flaunts its own faults, including its own title, for the sake of comedy.
The plot of Urinetown is a clever mix between a revolutionary tale and the classic “forbidden love” story. The local townspeople are living in poverty and are forced to pay a fine every time they wish to use the public amenity. A man soon rises against these laws and gets the townspeople on his side, while also falling in love with the daughter of the man behind the ridiculous “pee laws.”
Although this plot is cleverly written and wonderfully portrayed, it is not the reason I fully enjoyed the show. Rather, it was the shows unique brand of comedy that managed to win me over. The show does a great job of pulling off humor that is both fresh and unique as well as jokes that you would hear in the halls of an elementary school. And I laughed at every single one of them. Often times the show goes outside the normal boundaries of a musical, which, in a way, mocks the show itself as well as the entire musical genre. But in a good way.
However, this humor would not be as memorable if it were not for the excellent cast that conveyed the humor. The leading roles, Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell, who are played by seniors Zach Hebert and Ryan Clark respectively, are the two lovers in the story. Hebert and Clark both pull of their roles excellently, bringing their intentionally over-enthusiastic personalities vividly to life on the small Studio One stage.
More humorous characters include, but are nowhere near limited to, Officer Lockstock, the town’s head cop and the play’s narrator (played by senior Brody Earnhardt), Mr. Cladwell, the owner of UrineGood Company (yeah, I laughed a little bit too,) and creator of the “pee laws” (played by senior Brantley Seawright), and Little Sally, the co-narrator of the play (played by both Marina Hart and Katie Alvey).
The music was very well performed and the dance numbers were quite impressive, especially for being performed on a small stage. There were quiet songs, and there were loud songs, but all of them were funny in some way. A lot of the humor was incorporated physically, which added yet another aspect of comedy to the show.
Few plays can pull off combining wordplay humor with toilet humor, but this play does it with splendor and grace. This is all thanks to the wonderful and enthusiastic cast behind it, from the lead role down to the general chorus. Do not let the title fool you, Urinetown is a funny and ultimately engrossing show, and seeing it was an opportunity that I am glad was not flushed down the drain.