Mon Dec 8 2008
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
The fiendishly clever, blithely loony musical Improbable Frequency plunges headlong into World War II espionage and politics in ways that might make even Tom Stoppard arch an eyebrow. Physicist Erwin Schrödinger (Marty Rea, channeling Gene Wilder) and poet John Betjeman (Louis Lovett) are both part of book writer–lyricist Arthur Riordan’s deliriously satirical tale centering on Tristram (winsome Peter Hanly), a milquetoast crossword-puzzle fanatic whom British intelligence has recruited to investigate the possibility that the Irish—supposedly neutral in the war—might actually be collaborating with the Nazis.
Once Tristram has landed in Ireland, not only is he smack dab in the middle of questionable goings-on, he’s also embroiled in dual love affairs. One is with a fellow cruciverbalist (Cathy White), an Englishwoman traveling in Dublin, and another is with the mysterious Philomena (simultaneously comic and angelic Sarah-Jane Drummey). Could Philomena be providing a perky radio host (Darragh Kelly) with seemingly coded song titles, which he plays nightly?
Director Lynne Parker’s buoyant staging flags occasionally, but composer Bell Helicopter’s intriguing blend of period swing and indie rock consistently engages. Riordan’s witty and intricately crafted lyrics are joyous but the puns that mount to dizzying (and tiresome) extremes remain the chief flaw of the production. Like a diabolical crossword, Improbable Frequency frustrates and maddens even as it pleases.