Oct. 26—Nov. 11
Silver Spring Black Box Theatre
8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD
Now in its third iteration, Happenstance Theater's Cabaret Macabre gleams with the precision that has become their hallmark, even if isn’t quite the “all-new” offering promised by the program. It’s simply another diverting, crisply executed series of sketches from some gaslight-era version of Saturday Night Live, featuring circus-y musical accompaniment from Karen Hansen on accordion, trumpet, and a trunkload of other instruments. Last year’s best bit, “Mannequins,” wherein mime Mark Jaster engages in a wordless grudge match with Gwen Grastorf as the uniformed maid charged with introducing each of his increasingly elaborate poses, is revived. My other favorite returning sketch is another Jaster/Grastorf one, with the latter playing a (different?) maid who pushes a feeble, wheelchair-bound Jaster out to his garden, then back inside when it’s time for tea. As with the exquisitely choreographed four-way croquet-mallet fight scene, performed in slow motion while Jaster reads the game’s rules aloud, you kind of had to be there.
Sarah Olmsted Thomas and Alex Vernon share a segment about a love affair gone violently wrong called “The Broken Locket” that doesn’t quite pay off. But the bereavement songs woven throughout the show are all beautifully sung and when Sabrina Mandell, who co-founded the company with Jaster, takes a salted-pork chomp out of Lady Macbeth’s “Out, damned spot!” speech for a tittering crowd of party guests, you’ll appreciate how difficult it is for a good, subtle actor to play a ham-fisted bad one. (CK)