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Stage West's reprise of 'Don't Drink the Water' promises hijinks and satire

Rehearsing for the Stage West production of Don’t Drink the Water are, from left, Dave Stenger as Chef, Jennifer Bryant as Susan Hollander and Jim Hansen as Father Drobney.

Carol Ballard | Special to the Times

Rehearsing for the Stage West production of Don’t Drink the Water are, from left, Dave Stenger as Chef, Jennifer Bryant as Susan Hollander and Jim Hansen as Father Drobney.

SPRING HILL — This must be nostalgia season, as two area theaters present plays from the 1960s by last-half 20th century playwriting icons.

At Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre in New Port Richey, it's Neil Simon's 1969 comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

At the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, it's Woody Allen's 1966 farce Don't Drink the Water.

Don't Drink is a return engagement for Stage West. It was first presented during the 2004-05 season, when lead actor Dalton Benson won a HAMI award as Walter Hollander, the bumbling American who has to take refuge in a foreign embassy to save his own hide — the same role he is doing in the current production.

The play is set during the height of the Cold War in an unnamed country somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. The American Ambassador Magee (Allen Magnus, HAMI as Elwood in Harvey) goes out of town, leaving his inept son Axel (Stephan Hoda) in charge of the embassy.

Moments later, the Hollander family rushes in, mere feet ahead of the Communist police. It appears that the father, Walter, a New Jersey caterer, has inadvertently taken photographs of forbidden security areas, convincing the Communists that he is a spy. He's accompanied by his clueless wife, Marion (Lynda Dilts-Benson, HAMI as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!) and their lovely daughter, Susan (Jennifer Bryant).

The buffoonish elder Hollanders immediately cause trouble, insulting a sultan (Richard Fogg) and his wife (Sherry Fogg), but the embassy is surrounded by soldiers, so everyone must stay inside and try to get along. Almost immediately, Axel falls for Susan, and she feels likewise, even though she is engaged to be married to her hometown beau.

As the riots outside heat up, Papa Hollander seems much more concerned about the budding romance between his daughter and the ambassador's son. Suddenly, Father Drobney (Jim Hansen, HAMI as Hancock in 1776), a priest who has been hiding in the embassy for six years, appears from nowhere and helps work out a plan to help the Hollanders escape.

Of course, it doesn't work out as planned, even though Ambassador Magee has replaced his goof-off son with the fawning, ambitious assistant Ms. Kilroy (Cheryl Roberts, HAMI as Lexi in The Dixie Swim Club).

Amid much chaos, the local police chief Krojack (Sam Petricone, HAMI as Ali in Oklahoma!) arrives, and Walter makes things worse by opening his big mouth when he shouldn't.

Like much of playwright Allen's early work, Don't Drink (his first) has plenty of madcap hijinks and capers and lots of subtle political satire and asides. It was made into a movie in 1969, with a woefully miscast Jackie Gleason as Walter. It was later adapted for television, with Allen himself in the lead role.

>>FAST FACTS

Showings

Don't Drink the Water shows Thursday and weekends through Oct. 18 at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and $13 for groups of 10 or more. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., except Sundays and Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. Call (352) 683-5113.

Stage West's reprise of 'Don't Drink the Water' promises hijinks and satire 09/30/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 5:50pm]
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