“Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!” cries the grimy man in tatters. He and his mates are dragging a cart full of bodies through plague-ridden England. Moments before, a line of monks passed by, each hitting himself in the forehead with a huge book.
A burly man dumps a body in front of the cart. “But I’m not dead!” protests the heap of thin body parts. “You will be soon enough!” is the reply. And in protest, the thin body parts reassemble themself, leap up and begin to sing, “I’m not dead yet, I’m not dead yet!/ I can dance and sing/ I can do the Highland Fling!”
Yes, it’s so silly it can only be Monty Python’s Spamalot. Three cheers!
Staged by the Marin Shakespeare Company, in the second production of their 30th Anniversary Season, Python Eric Idle and John Du Prez’ musical spin-off from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the perfect play for a summer afternoon at the Forest Meadows Amphitheater on the campus of the Dominican University in San Rafael. Or any evening when all seems right with the world and everyone seems forgivable.
It’s a delightful production – just the kind of funny and homely production that Director Robert Currier excels at.
There’s very little plot, of course. King Arthur (Jarion Monroe) and his faithful coconut-clattering horse Patsy (Bryan Munar, a wonderful singer) are questing around England, looking for knights for Arthur’s court. The first people they come across are Dennis (Michael MacDonald), a revolutionary and lippy young peasant, and his Mum (Patrick Russell).
After introducing himself, Arthur is immediately challenged by young Dennis: “How did you become King?” Neither Dennis nor Mum is impressed by Arthur’s story of the Lady of the Lake giving him the sword Excalibur, symbol of the ruler of the Britons. “Strange woman lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for basis for a system of government,” contends Dennis. To Mum, the Lady is simply “some watery tart.” Grumble, grumble.
Suddenly the watery tart and her band of watery tarts-in-training appear, fern wands in hand, to spirit away young Dennis and transform him into Dennis Galahad, Knight, with a Crusader tunic and new set of fluffy curls.
As the play continues Arthur collects more and more knights, settling on a round figure of four. Now what to do?
On cue, the Lady of the Lake (Susan Zelinsky) reappears, a goblet in her hand. This is the quest: to find the Holy Grail. There is quite a bit of consternation. “God, the almighty and all knowing, has misplaced a cup?”
And so the quest begins.
There’s lots of singing and dancing, and silly hilarious schtick.
One of my favorite scenes is when the knights finally reach a castle where they believe the Holy Grail might be, but find the castle is held by two French guards who proceed to taunt the bumbling and rather indignant Britons. “I am French,” the guard says, “why do you think I have this outrrrrageous accent, you silly King … English pig dogs, go and boil your bottoms, silly persons. I blow my nose at you … Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.” And on and on.
So, for a few moments it’s wonderful to skip the cares of reckless government and climate disaster and just have a few good laughs. Bring a picnic!
– Jaime Robles
The Marin Shakespeare Company’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalotcontinues through August 25. For information and tickets, visit marinshakespeare.org