By Sami Zahringer




By Sami Zahringer

   “Unhappy, darling?” Gomez asks his wife. “Totally,” replies Morticia with a blissful smile. The Addams are dark. Their preferred attire is black, and their hobbies include collecting antique instruments of torture and shooting pigeons in the park with a crossbow.


    Imagine then their dismay when daughter Wednesday falls in love with Lucas, a nice, strait-laced boy from (shudder) Ohio, starts wearing (horrors!) yellow and, worse, wants them to meet his family.


     The Addams Family musical, produced by Lin Coleman and Herb Hemming, and now playing at Ojai ACT through April 3, has been twice the usual amount of work for director Gai Jones and her production staff because there are two different versions playing. The rollicking main production has a chiefly adult cast but on Saturdays the matinee is performed almost entirely by a youth cast in the lead roles.


     The laughs arrive thick and fast in both versions like darkly glittering little gifts but, unsurprisingly, come at different places in each show; the adult cast mining more of the adult jokes in the witty script and libretto, and the exuberant youth cast emphasizing the whole gallows-humor, lark-about spirit of Charles Addams’ original New Yorker cartoons. For example, Sofia Burke hilariously shrieks it up as the tiny cackling grandma in the Saturday matinee, while Mary Ellen Gridley plays her more like an aged, weed-puffing Woodstock hippie.


     Morticia is played in the youth cast with poise, biting humor, and some terrific tango moves by Nicole Riffenburgh and, in the evening, Tracey Williams-Sutton, having great vampy fun, presents a more maternal Morticia who delivers her caustic wit with the experience of a family woman. Both the youth and adult Gomez are outstanding. Rhett Speer as the junior version is smoothly, suavely hysterical while Shayne Bourbon gives us a fulsome Latin Lover, nailing every joke in his rolling Spanish accent. Maya Mouderres presents us with a wonderfully impish, bratty little brother in Saturday matinee’s Pugsley, while Sophie Massey’s Pugsley in the adult cast brings a darker, edgier subversive sarcasm to the role.


     Wednesday in the youth cast is played with spunky, rebellious spirit by Gabrielle Castagna while Hayley Silvers in the evening cast plays a more soulful Wednesday. The chemistry between both Wednesdays and their respective beaus (Steven Silvers and, for the youth cast, Bodhi Bourbon) works well although slightly differently in each version.


    Brittany Danyel and Ezra Eels are a hoot in a terrific double act as Lucas’s uptight parents in the evenings and, in the youth cast, Sarah Mitchell is at her best as the side-splitting Mrs Beineke discovering her hidden free spirit at a “full disclosure” dinner, alongside a starchy, stuffy Hayden Miller.


    Michael McCarthy’s Uncle Fester is charmingly creepy and James Alderete shows us a sweeter moonstruck version in the kids’ cast, while Nelson Fox and Ethan Garcia both bring the requisite booming bizarreness to Lurch, the monosyllabic zombie-like manservant.


     The musical numbers are beautifully choreographed by Beverley Sharpe and Musical Directors, Smitty West and Julija Zonic, coax the best from members of both the casts. Fabulous wigs and luscious costuming, especially among The Ancestors, make the spectacle pop.


     It was fun to leave the theater while watching people, young and old, still clicking their fingers in the classic da-da-da-dum (Snap! Snap!) theme-music style. The Addams Family is kooky, spooky, intergenerational merry-making for the whole family. There is lots to love in both versions and comparing them is its own diversion. See both!


     The Addams Family musical plays through April 3 at Ojai ACT, 113 S. Montgomery St., at the earlier-than-usual time of 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. features youth taking over the lead characters. Tickets are $18 general; $12 for seniors, students and Art Center members; and $5 for youth 12 and under. Call for reservations at 640-8797 or visit: