‘Don’t Drink the Water’ Quenches Audiences’ Thirst

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Woody Allen’s 1966 play “Don’t Drink the Water,” is a riot at the Glendale Centre Theatre.

It is an insane story about a caterer from New Jersey, Walter Hollander, and his family, who are forced to take a refuge at the U.S. Embassy behind the Iron Curtain, and the inept son of the American ambassador to the communist Soviet Union. The play is directed by George Stratten.

In his black frock, American priest Father Drobney (Taras Los), a six-year refugee at the U.S. Embassy who passes his time learning to become a magician, buoyantly tells the funny story about living at the embassy behind the Iron Curtain.

He gives the audience a momentary calm atmosphere. An American seal covers the middle of the floor, a long sofa across a desk with a dial-up telephone dominates the room, while President Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrait on the wall watches over every thing.

As Father Drobney departs, dignified Ambassador Magee (Van McDuff) reluctantly gives his son, Yale graduate Axel (Michael Sartain), a chance to take charge of the embassy while he is back in America. Axel, dressed handsomely as a young executive, promises his dad that “everything will be OK.”

Unfortunately, as the Ambassador exits, a shooting outside the embassy is heard. Hollander (Eric Poppick) and his wife, Marion (Lyndsey Field), enter running out of breath with their daughter, Susan (Elise Horn).

Communist police officers Krojack (Craig Mitchell) and Novotny (Yvonne Golomb) are chasing the Hollanders to arrest them. The Hollanders are accused as of being a part of a notorious ring of spies after Walter innocently snaps a picture of a sensitive communist area. Axel and the nonsense embassy staff, Kilroy (Jim Barkley) are caught in the chaos.
Father Drobney doesn’t allow for the embassy to have room for the Hollanders. Walter is angry about being closed off behind the embassy walls and wants to know why they would be jailed if they were to go back to their hotel.

Krojack accuses Axel of harboring spies on his first day in office. President Johnson’s portrait witnesses the incidents, but in no way could Axel get his advice. The ludicrous disarray brings roars of laughter to the audience.

Making matter worse, Chef (Eugene Alper) later walks in Axel’s office vowing to wring Walter’s neck because Walter pokes in his kitchen. He also complains to Axel about the lack of American food at the embassy. The scene is so ridiculously outrageous that it keeps the audience in stitches especially when Father Drobney’s magic rabbit is stolen by Chef to feed Hollander.

Beautiful Susan, engaged to be married to an attorney her father approves of, is apologetic to Axel for her father’s constant complaints and stubbornness. It is here that Axel falls in love with Susan.
Axel plans the Hollanders’ escape, coinciding with the embassy’s party.

Heavily set Sultan Bashi and his tiny wife are also present but are very drunk. Krojack and Novotny crash the party searching for the Hollanders. However, Axel had Kilroy dress Walter and Marion with the Sultan and his wife’s outfit. Walter complains incessantly, but is forced to leave the embassy to safety, leaving Susan behind. This gives the plot a maddening story line with many pleasant twists.

Father Drobney returns joyfully telling the audience that Walter and Marion Hollander safely made it to New Jersey, while Axel and Susan became husband and wife, as Ambassador Magee takes charge of the U.S. embassy in the Soviet Union.

The gratified audience burst with deafening applause at the production.
The performers are excellent and audience members are surely satisfied.
The performance is runing Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 to $18.

The Glendale Centre Theatre is at 324 N. Orange St. For more information call (818) 244-8481.

Rating: * * * * (out of four).