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Scooby-Doo targeted in scrappy comedy


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If you're looking for all-out escape and silliness at the theater, the ongoing production of Shakespeare in Hollywood at Theatre Charlotte should provide all the mindless mirth and physical comedy you're looking for. But what if you're unwilling to encounter such redemptive residues as three-dimensional characters, imaginative costuming, and immortal blank verse along the way? Queen City Theatre Company jubilantly provides a sillier, mindlesser alternative at Spirit Square.

Targeted at Hanna-Barbera's execrable Scooby-Doo, Spooky Dog and the Teen-age Gang Mysteries will toon you loose from every mooring of the adult world except sexuality, showering you with one-dimensional characters, toon-level dialogue, and mind-numbing implausibility. Sprinkled amid these irritations are oases of adolescent lusting and hormone-driven innuendo; rockin' revels in The Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" and Cap & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together;" and, for whoopee cushion purposes, well-timed burps of an audience laugh-track.

Beyond the toddler-friendly rollercoaster at Carowinds in the pre-Paramount era, I must plead total ignorance -- or Not Guilty -- of Scooby-Doo. The opening night crowd was far more erudite than I in Scooby lore, relishing the satiric thrust of the Eric Pliner-Amy Rhodes script. But if satirizing Dubya has devolved into shooting fish in a barrel, then skewering Scooby is like harpooning a tadpole in a wineglass.

The excellent cast, animated by director Glenn T. Griffin, flattens itself admirably into their celluloid-thin characters. As Spooky Dog and the Gang set about solving "The Case of the Fairground Phantom" and rescuing Celine Dion from captivity (celeb name supplied by audience), the quintet divides into two cliques.

Spooky and his pal Scraggly are a marriage of semi-articulate bestiality and stoned stupidity, perpetually annoying thanks to the pinpoint portraiture of Jamison Middlemiss and Joel Sumner. The other three gangsters are far more interesting: Thelma, Tiffany and Ted are enmeshed in a torrid love triangle. So who will win the wanton Tiffany's love?

Jennifer Quigley, as Thelma, gets to unleash the most hormones in her butchy quest. Leader of the pack Ted has the inside track on Tif, and Rob White captures Ted's vacuous/ruthless duality to perfection. In a transformative red wig, Courtney Johnson gives Tiffany a seedy allure that jibes well with the carny milieu.

Matt Kenyon steals this show, cross-dressing as the carny owner's wife, Marnie Woodhaven, and the exotic soothsayer, Fortuanna. Josh Looney, saddled with the burden of rendering the redneck charms of "Big Woody" Woodhaven, maintains a shred of dignity at the end of the ride.

It would be cruel to reveal who lurks behind the Oz Scarecrow/Angel of Death costume of the Fairground Phantom. Suffice it to say that in their hunt for this horrid criminal, they run into him/her at least three times before the fearsome denouement -- and each time they turn tail. A profound depiction of our paradoxical attraction to the most horrifying phenomena in the universe, or an unspeakably dumb way to stretch 10 minutes of drivel out to 70? You decide.

Better yet, Scooby-Don't.

It's a mixed blessing that the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra has no perception -- and even less of a care -- about what the Queen City likes in their classical music diet. On the debit side, maestro Derek Gleeson cued up the same Brahms Hungarian Rhapsody for an encore that Andrew Grams served up not quite four months earlier in his eager audition with the Charlotte Symphony.

That was more than counterbalanced by their audacity to program Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto #2 at Belk Theater. And no apologies preceded a brilliant Peter Tuite performance at the keyboard, with accompaniment by the Dubliners that was piercing in the opening Allegro, ethereal in the Andante, and incendiary in the finale. That was after the razor-sharp romp through Mikhail Glinka's "Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla."

Otherwise, the Tchaikovsky #4 came off a little lackadaisical in the middle movements.

The Carolinas Concert Association's season resumes with the Eroica Trio on March 1 and the Russian National Ballet on March 30.


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