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NY Theater Reviews

(L to R) James Millard and Dan March/ Ph: Lidia Crisafulli

KNOCKOFF PYTHON

By SANDY MACDONALD

Taste is not a strong point in this spoof of Anglo-American relations mid-WWII.

It’s one thing to emulate Monty Python, another to rip them off, as do the creators of this prolonged skit, very loosely – and louchely – adapted from a 1942 orientation handbook intended to acclimate the newly embedded U.S. 8th Air Force.
 
First, a necessary disclosure: I had a dad in this fight, a flight surgeon in that very division, who went on to attend the wounded at H-Hour on Omaha Beach. So I’m offended to see two British performers, Dan March and James Millard, buffoonishly portray an ignorant blowhard U.S. colonel and his crafty glad-handing lieutenant (good luck evading Millard’s aggressive overtures in the interest of interactivity). As these two ugly Americans relentlessly troll for cheap laughs, there seems to be no acknowledgment on the part of the writing team – which includes director John Walton – that the Americans in question were putting their lives on the line to help out. Only the third writer/performer, Matt Sheahan as the British major in charge of the base, manages to wrest a smidgen of palatable humor from the proceedings, via a chalkboard lecture on the English monetary system (“The most important thing to remember about a guinea of course is that it doesn't exist”) and a comparable intro to cricket.
 
So about that semi-plagiarized scene: It takes place amid a tasteless Nazi puppet show depicting three German spies-in-training being tutored in the art of blending in. The word “Heil!” pops out, along with a stiff-armed salute. Cf. John Cleese as “Mr. Hilter.”
 
If puerile smuttiness – such as the inevitable “spotted dick” joke or a homophobic sight gag advising “Bottoms up!” when sipping tea – happens to be your cup of Earl Grey, have at it. Oh and by the way, the manual itself (I skimmed excerpts) surprises with charm and insight. Contemporary tourists might do well to read it.