“I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I'm strong to the finich, cause I eats me spinach.I'm Popeye the Sailor Man…” I am still singing this silly tune to myself and can’t seem to get it out of my head! Popeye ( John Moran) sang it alongside his companions in just the appropriate sailor-ly way in Factory Theater’s The New Adventures of Popeye. An extremely fun, funny, and intimate venue, this late night showing was a quick blast of pure entertainment! The physical comedy, audience interaction, animation of the characters, and cleverly directed episodes were all major stand-outs at this local community theater.
Directed by Eric Roach, The New Adventures of Popeye brought a new and lively take to the famed cartoon, incorporating contemporary issues into the standard stories and relationships. Despite the fact that I really had no idea who Popeye was prior to watching this series of sketches (aside from wrongfully assuming he was related to Marie Calender’s chicken pot pies!), I found this production of Popeye’s stories to be very clear and understandable, fitting for any generation, and requiring no prior knowledge of the cartoon. I was so enraptured by the characters and the silly hurdles they all go through together that by the end of the night, I made it a goal of mine to watch the cartoon, and I still eagerly hold myself to it.
The late night comedy is divided into 3 mini episodes, with an additional in-your-face, interactive prologue and with intermittent fun commercial breaks in between. The adventures began right as we, the audience, entered the small theater. Popeye came right up to me at the start of the show, with his corky and not-so-easily understandable dialect, eagerly showing me some of his newly found gadgets, while Bluto let me choose a few pieces of candy from his bucket, devilishly fooling around with me at the same time. This fun pre-show created an intimate, light-hearted, interactive atmosphere that lasted throughout the evening.
The first episode of the play, “The Apple of my Popeye” was quite funny, with Bluto and Popeye vying against each other to sell apples. It is in this scene that we see the love relationship develop between sweet and naïve Olive Oyl and gritty Popeye. The following episode, “Therapy Shmerapy” was pure laugh-out-loud comedy---with each intervention by the two therapists creating more ruckus in the relationship between Popeye and Olive Oyl. The physical comedy that organically weaved itself into this skit was wonderfully astounding, as was the acapella musical accompaniment and sound bites that were incorporated (all done by the characters on stage with the instruments and goodies they had available). The poster boards indicating the progression of time, ie “after six therapy sessions…” added to the humor, for the more sessions there were had, the greater the chaos, even leading to fighting among the two therapists! The final episode, “In Plane Sight” was also replete with wit. Olive Oyl (Sarah Rose Graber) made a funny remark about the current controversy over body scans, come on stage a bit disheveled and with her skirt scrunched up to her thigh. The huge knife she pulled out of her purse and realized she couldn’t bring on also helped connect the themes of Popeye to the somewhat ridiculous lifestyle we face today in America.
The airplane setting with Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto intimately and uncomfortably squeezed together, with male koken Colin Milroy narrating behind and female koken Lina Del Toro providing musical accompaniment, was filled with clown-like farce and wonderful comedic timing. The fact that each character is so enmeshed in his own world created the venue for great conflict to arise on a jam-packed row of an airplane.
Sarah Rose Graber truly committed to the part of Olive Oyl and played the character perfectly---her big eyes and huge facial expressions, limberness and talent at physical comedy, and high voice all gave off an air of innocence and naivete that was continuously captivating. David Skvarla skillfully played the part of Bluto with grime and grittiness, using his big and bold eyes to accentuate his character. Popeye and the male and female kokens also committed to their characters and obviously had fun with their parts. The entire cast clearly had a tight camaraderie with each other, going through each of the adventures as a true ensemble.
It was precisely the use of physical comedy, the animation of the characters, and the actor-made sounds and posters that accompanied the acting that made these late night adventures extra comedic. The fun the characters had on stage was incredibly infectious, bringing laughter and humor to a quite supportive audience. If you are looking for an evening of fun filled with lots of laughter and slap stick comedy, then be sure to check out The New Adventures of Popeye!
Prop Theatre-3502 N. Elston