“The Addams Family,” which was performed by Ram’s Head over the last two weekends, adds an intriguing dark-humor twist to the traditional family struggles we all experience through theatre; additionally, despite having such a gloomy ambiance in their setting, the family dynamics showed more affection and support than is often present in theatre pieces like “Hamlet” or “School of Rock.” The affection made apparent by the Addams’ family cast is greater than that of most students neglecting to call their parents weekly. The macabre jokes keep one simultaneously shocked and entertained with their fine-tuned inappropriateness.
In this appearance of the famous Addams family, they are clashed onstage with a nice, white-picket-fence-loving family from Ohio (that one state with Cleveland in it). Family relation crises and geopolitical one-liners ensue. There’s love, lies, violence — torture, even — and lunar, supersonic space travel. In the end, all the cynicism boils down to nice family values to take home. There’s also a taste of all-black fashion via the main Addams, followed by a trip up history lane with the multi-era costumes proudly worn by the ironically lively, undead ancestors. The cast is a strong one, described as a “tightly-knit community of great actors” by Caroline Hintzman, a member of the ensemble. This, as previously mentioned, was evident through the affection displayed on scene.
As a good old young adult cynic, I scanned the stage for half-hearted hugs or breaks from character as the cast acted like a family. They didn’t falter for a second. The close camaraderie mentioned by Hintzman is evident in watching the Addams, Beinekes and the ensemble. And one must recognize the cast again, as their many powerful voices that fill the auditorium. To further describe the experience, the vocal parts of this piece were sprinkled with humor and a touch or darkness, but this didn’t overshadow the singers’ talent in the least. The pitch and power behind some of the leads’ lyrics genuinely had me surprised as I sat in the back wondering why I never took up voice lessons. At one point during a sustained note in a solo of the first act, in the spirit of research, I decided to hold my breath as long as the actor did. Much like what happened when I tried that in “Finding Nemo”, I almost died.
Additionally, Ram’s Head’s website reminds viewers that they made a “concerted effort” to make sure the cast was diverse, resulting in 50 percent of the named leads and the ensemble being people of color. This statistic doesn’t quite hold in the audience’s memory, however. The Addams principal family members and the Beineke family (the other half of the main characters) can’t claim to have as much cast diversity as the named leads AND the ensemble. The ensemble group did seem to be much more diverse — at least from the audience’s point of view. Nevertheless, recognition is due, as this play is traditionally pulled off by a notably racially homogenous cast and some diversity was doubtlessly present in Stanford’s production. If the ethnoracial distribution of the cast was the same as that of the university, and that of the university was the same as that of the country, now that would be an incredible and honorable play. It is still an entertaining play, though and we are on our way to a better world from the looks of it.
Accompanying the show was the orchestra, coming together to provide mixtures of jazz, Latin and rock music. Lots of practice, talent and moving of heavy instruments was involved in perfecting the mixed-style musical numbers, the sound effects and the overall emotion steaming from underside the stage in the pit. Natalie Francis, the assistant music director, was proud to work along such musicians, and she emphasized the hard work that went into making the final product, especially the measures thereof with switching funny time signatures. And indeed, the music was spotless. Having listened to the soundtrack beforehand, the experience at Memorial Auditorium was immersing. It was a delight to see the Addams cast sing, dance and trash talk certain topics comically relatable to all of us non-Addams.
The ticket sure was a better investment than that $20 burger at you-know-where. To all who were looking for a way to destress from the extensive amount of work normally associated with spring quarter, Ram’s Head Theatrical Society sure brought quite a jewel to campus.
Contact David J. Florez R. at sirdavid ‘at’ stanford.edu.