The opening night of CMTS’ The Addams Family was last night. Staff writer Ezra Lerner attended and documented the highs and lows.
The Addams Family is cool. Or, more accurately, some of the Addams Family is cool. Specifically, Morticia (Chantel Woo, BC ‘20) and Wednesday Addams (Joanna Berkowitz, BC ‘22). Armed with pithy one-liners, and confidence from the jump, they rule the day in this adaption of Charles Addams’ famous television show and New Yorker cartoons. If Morticia and Wednesday were the leaders of this family (and the main characters), this would be quite the clan to hang out with. And if the New York Jets knew how to draft well, New York football would be a lot more interesting. But alas they aren’t and they don’t, respectively.
The main character of the show is Gomez Addams (Wesley Schmidt, CC ‘22). While Schmidt does have quite a good voice and gets funnier as the play goes on, Gomez does not possess nearly enough swagger to carry this production. Equipped with a colored-on mustache, and a series of dad jokes (“Like the New York DMV, I’m trapped”), the patriarch of the Addams clan does not afford creepy the gravitas, adrenaline, or intrigue that it deserves. He comes off more like a lame dad than a frightening one. Swapping out Gomez for Morticia, or Wednesday, as the main character would have made the play far more captivating.
To be fair to the Addams Patriarch, other characters also have trouble carrying their weight opposite the female leads. Consider Lucas Beineke (Ethan Woo, CC ‘20), Wednesday’s love interest. Ethan Woo and Berkowitz have good chemistry, so Lucas really does seem to care for Wednesday, and Berkowitz deftly navigates Wednesday between romantic vulnerability and a gothic-infused self-assurance. The problem is that Lucas, not Ethan Woo, is…boring after a while. Wednesday Addams introduces herself to the audience in one of the early scenes by walking into a room with a dead bird in hand. “Look, I shot dinner,” she proclaims to her family, effortlessly flipping the animal in the air. With a few words and a wrist flick, Berkowitz turns West Virginia pride into Brooklyn sheik. Her character deserves a companion with that same power over a room.
Lucas, however, just tends to just crush on Wednesday and offer her corny sentiments. During the climax of the play, for example, Lucas tries to break this mold by offering to have Wednesday blindly shoot an arrow at an apple on the top of his head. This would prove that Lucas is spontaneous, and a little crazy, like Wednesday, and not vanilla. He undercuts this bad-boy display, however, by assuring Wednesday that “I will guide the arrow. I will guide it with my love.” One wishes he had just said nothing, and just let the bad-ass guide the thing herself.
Berkowitz and Chantel Woo do not, however, carry the show by themselves. They get help from several members of the supporting cast. Pugsley (Sandy Gooen, BC ‘19) is quite funny as Wednesday’s torture-obsessed sibling and sidekick. The role also gives Gooen the opportunity to show off their phenomenal singing voice. Alice Beineke (Maura Ward, BC ‘21), Lucas’ repressed mother, and Lurch (Emma Gometz. BC’ 21 ), the Addams’ zombie butler, also both have phenomenal pipes, each getting the opportunity for haunting solos in “Waiting” and “Move Toward the Darkness” respectively.
Fester, (Emma Liberatore, BC ‘21) Gomez’s brother, Mal Beineke (Dylan Dameron, CC ‘20), Lucas’ father, and the Addams’ Grandmama (Olivia English, BC ‘22) have great comedic timing, even if the show’s long running time (~2:30 hours) means that Fester’s humor can wear thin on occasion. (This is particularly true during a song where Fester professes romantic feelings for the moon). Overall, though, they add to the creepy Addams vibe, drawing the audience into the family’s life.
In the end, the Addams Family comes to the plate with Kirk Gibson level talent, but also a broken leg to be sure. What makes the play unable to hit a home run is the lack of balance in the quality of the main characters. Chantel Woo crafts a Morticia able to both oppose Wednesday’s romantic decisions, while genuinely caring about her daughter’s well-being and what makes the Addams Family special. There is no reason she could not be made the main character, and antagonist, in the production. Doing that would pit two well-acted, well-written characters against one another, and cut down on running time by removing the marital squabbles between Gomez and Morticia, that are resolved by the end anyway.
With Ethan Woo’s’ talent, a stronger love interest for Wednesday is also definitely possible. Someone who still has Lucas’ chemistry, and devotion, but a little more chutzpah and zest for life. For now, though, if they could just cut down on the dad jokes, that would be great.
Photo via CMTS