Allotment Annie

 

By Mark Masonallotment annie at infusion theatre

Directed by Bridgette Harney

produced by InFusion Theatre Company

At Strawdog Theatre, Chicago

In a world premiere

Convoluted and inaccurate World War II drama fizzles on all counts

If you’re going to produce a play about an era such as World War II, best you do your homework. That surly wasn’t the case with Mark Mason’s world premiere Allotment Annie. Among the many incorrect details were the glaring errors in the Army uniforms:  rank Insignias were place in the wrong place; and pilots always had a silver pilot’s wings above their ribbons. The enlisted man (here a corporal) always had his chevrons sown on both sleeves, etc. etc. If costume designer Rachel Sypriewski would only Google “Army Air Force” and “Army paratrooper uniforms from WWII,” maybe she’d get the look correct. If your going for realism, then the devil is in the details.

Allotment Annie - InFusion Theatre Company, January 2013

But, the real problem with Allotment Annie is in the story. Utilizing a too-fast-talking female announcer (here an American and, at times, a Nazi) and a sprinkling of lame swing dancing (I could almost hear the actors counting their steps) with off-key singing, Allotment Annie tried too hard to convey the atmosphere of WWII. Set in a military canteen in Poughkeepsie, New York , we meet Fran (Kate Black-Spence) and her bartender partner Virginia (Amy Rapp) who run a watering hole for GI’s. Virginia loves to have sex and marry soldiers – she has married and lost (killed in combat)  six husbands in the two and a half years of WWII (it is May, 1944 here). She seduces Vance (Beau Forbes), a paratrooper into her bed. She marries him once she get notice of losing her current hubby. Amazing and preposterous!

Allotment Annie - InFusion Theatre Company, January 2013

But when Fran is smitten by Lt. Joe Archibald (Carl Lindberg), they talk about a scheme to defraud the US government.  According to the press notes, that’s what the play is about:  “1944: In wartime, sometimes you have to kill to keep love alive. What starts as a harebrained war profiteering scheme by a dashing Army Air Force pilot and a beautiful bartender turns into sex, betrayal and murder, and bodies start to fall in more ways than one during the most violent year of the twentieth century.”

The plot is only hinted at but we never see the scheme unfold. Instead, we see Fran turn psychopath as she killed Joe on their wedding night. In act two, Fran tells Virginia about her killing her war injured sister. This play turns from a song-and-dance infused sexual ramp to gain allotment checks to a murdering psycho seems to come out of nowhere.

I’m not sure why playwright Mark Mason wanted to write several plays in one play? This story is an unfocused convoluted mess. Add the poor acting and mumbling lack of articulation by Kate Black-Spence and Amy Rapp together with the wildly fast-talking announcer Mallory Nees and Allotment Annie becomes a tedious affair. Mason needs to rethink and refocus his play as he asks himself what the play is really about. Is it about a murderous psychopath or two scheming  gals bent on getting  government cash from their GI husbands? And, if you want to infuse your show with swing tunes and dance, then cast singers and dancers and produce a light musical. As presented, Allotment Annie tries and fails to be a worthy story – it begs the question: what is it about?  Maybe if the production values and acting were better, the work would be tolerable but as now presented, it isn’t worth seeing.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 5, 2013

For more info checkout the Allotment Annie page at theatreinchicago.com

At Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-528-9696, www.infusiontheatre.com, tickets 425, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, rinning time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through February 3, 2013

 

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