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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 26, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 43
Mice from hell
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Mice from hell

Annex's latest premiere is fun, but is it really a musical?

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

A MOUSE WHO KNOWS ME
ANNEX THEATRE
Through November 17


A quirky, Annex-worthy world-premiere musical opened last weekend. A Mouse Who Knows Me combines the often-brilliant science-fiction storytelling of Scotto Moore and the top-drawer musical talents of Robertson Witmer. Knowing them both, the anticipation was keen.

The storyline meets the expectation of a just-out-of-time's-reach scientific discovery - a sentient mouse - and includes Moore's sometimes-dark expectations of how scientific experiments might be manipulated by those in power. In this case, sentient mice might be combined with robotic weaponry to allow wars to be won without putting human soldiers in harm's way.

Of course, since it's a humorous musical, weaponizing mice is an activity thwarted by some of the scientists and even the sentient mouse itself. Tah-dah, the evil military exploiter can't succeed in his diabolical scheme.

The music (well-played by a contingent of excellent musicians, but pre-recorded due to budget constraints) is an entertaining amalgamation of '50s style, a ballad or two, and some fun reprises, including an 'announcing' song - apparently every time the lab's head, Dr. Robert Cramer (Josh Hartvigson), arrives, the post-doctoral researchers have to stop and sing!

MIGHTY MICE
Dr. Audrey Whitman (Sara Mountjoy-Pepka) is a rising star in the mouse lab and presents evidence that she has infused human genes into some mice and found one that recognizes her. Jealous Dr. Lorelei Meadow (Pamala Mijatov) has infused some aggressive genes into her mice and manipulates the two experiments into one, getting permission to mate the sentient mouse with aggressive female mice - which produces a litter of smart, angry mice. Dr. Cramer sees the financial advantages immediately.

K. Brian Neel plays the sentient mouse, both by manipulating an adorable mouse puppet and by scenes acting as a mouse with other mice, dressed all in white, where we're to believe they are mouse-sized. That might sound confusing, but it works. His antic behavior is a plus for the production.

Leilani Berinobis does a great job as the head of the department and John McKenna is the militarist. A fun ensemble, playing mice and other post-docs, includes Allison Standley, Tadd Morgan, Amanda Lee Williams, and Lissa Bak. Director Kristina Sutherland pulls it all together.

BREAKING THE 'RULES'
As a musical, however, the entire production is a bit uneven. There are two rules about what music is supposed to do in a musical - move the story along, often faster than any dialogue could, and substitute for emotions that are so big they can't simply be stated. Moore's lyrics do move the story along, but oftentimes are substituted for regular dialogue: 'I'm so-and-so and I'm here to do such-and-such.' That's more representative of what an operetta does.

A versatile basic lab set is designed by Robin Macartney, great costumes are provided by Samantha Armitage, and terrific lighting support comes from Tess Malone. Still, does the whole thing actually stack up to a musical? In many respects, it might be better off as a play, sans music. That's not faulting the musical additions, just questioning if the songs add anything important to the plot. There is really only one 'big' song - when Audrey laments her situation - and it's the only song that really does what songs are supposed to do in a musical.

However, that doesn't mean you ought not go see A Mouse Who Knows Me. The production is as well done as most other Annex productions, and it's an interesting sci-fi idea. For more information, go to www.annextheatre.org or call 206-728-0933.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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