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Improbable Frequency at Strawdog Theatre Company | Theater review

A quirky Irish musical begins with charm but devolves into chaos.

Photograph: Chris Ocken
Improbable Frequency at Strawdog Theatre Company

A physicist, a poet, a spy and a code breaker walk into a Nazi-sympathizing Irish bar in World War II. Wackiness ensues. Part Picasso at the Lapin Agile, part The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Arthur Riordan and Bell Helicopter’s 2004 musical inserts two historical figures—Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (Eric Paskey) and English poet John Betjeman (Jason Grimm)—into a plot that begins with goofy charm and ends with inexplicable confusion.

British code breaker Tristan (a tepid Michael Dailey) is sent to neutral Ireland to investigate potential secret messages sent via song titles on the radio. He plants himself at a bar where he meets quirky characters like a fiery IRA leader (Scott Danielson) and a treacherous femme fatale (Christina Hall), along with an Irish woman (Sarah Goeden) who appears to exist outside this madcap world. Danielson and Hall are fiercely committed to their cartoonish characters; Boris-and-Natasha-like dedication to their political agendas gives the first act much-needed urgency.

A four-piece band plays folksy Irish tunes that are spoken as much as sung, putting Riordan’s quick wordplay on display. Romance blossoms and secret plots are put in motion, yet when Schrödinger’s probability machine comes into play, the show gets lost in the chaos. The implausibility of the plot might be the point, but too many random elements diminish the impact.

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