David reviews 'Charlie and the Siberian Monkey Goddess' 

“Charlie and the Siberian Monkey Goddess” manages to be something you’ve seen before — the zany “Who’s the crazy one?” debate in a psychiatrist’s office — and something a bit different, in that the debate is between Charlie Chaplin (or an imposter) and someone who might be a doctor, or the goddess of the title, or possibly Princess Anastasia (all of whom affect a Boris-and-Natasha Russian accent). Don Nigro’s one-act play isn’t quite as brilliant as it thinks it is, but it is concise and consistently clever. In Out of Pocket Players’ production, tidily directed by Stephanie Roosa, the show is definitely entertaining and satisfyingly Fringey.

To recall the play in any detail would be to give everything away; suffice it to say that the attempt to unravel who Charlie and Anastasia really are touches on identity, reality, gender, sexuality, Communism, the movies, and bananas, to name a few things. To keep it aloft, brief as it is, requires two tour-de-force performances, which it gets from Kiyomi Oliver as Charlie and Sara Bickweat Penner as Anastasia. Oliver disarmingly and convincingly embodies Chaplin’s iconic look and amusingly graceful movements (with help from choreographer Mandi Lynn Griffith-Gurell); Penner’s performance is at first rather restrained and a foil to Charlie’s recounting of his early years, but as the character asserts herself over him, she throws herself into the role.

The opening performance had a few hesitancies and hiccups, but the second half or so had great energy. The play’s final twist and ending are frankly pretty predictable (I won’t spoil it for you, though), but in Oliver and Penner’s committed acting, it was genuinely odd and unnerving, surely the effect the writer had in mind. If you missed it last night, “Charlie and the Siberian Monkey Goddess” is well worth catching next week.

“Charlie and the Siberian Monkey Goddess” will be performed again on Friday, September 20 at MuCCC. 7 p.m., $10. Appropriate for ages 13 and older.
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