A.R.T.’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’ is a swashbuckling good time

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The American Repertory Theater transforms into a riotous indoor beach party for The Hipocrites’ outrageously enjoyable interpretation of “The Pirates of Penzance.”

When you go (and you must) arrive early to partake in the party before the show. Beach balls fly through the air, the “sun” shines, a beachside bar serves summer cocktails, and an ensemble of musicians in frighteningly short shorts play songs you know and love, inviting you to sing along. It’s so much fun, you might find yourself wishing the show would never start.

But when it does start, you’ll be glad it did. The brilliant 80-minute revamping of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic is so good, you’ll leave with with sore cheeks from grinning throughout the entire show. The not-so-swashbuckling pirates lack both swords and swagger, but manage to make up for these shortcomings — and then some. They’re extraordinarily talented musicians who meander about while playing guitars, banjos, a squeezebox, spoons and a saw.

It’s a totally immersive theatrical experience and, at times, you might find yourself so caught up in the hijinks that you lose your place in the story. A quick read through the synopsis will solve that, if need be. And don’t be fooled by the loose, seemingly haphazard feel of the production. This is a slick, brilliantly conceived, flawlessly executed piece of theater.

Christine Stulik delivers stunning vocals in her dual roles of Ruth and Mabel. Zeke Sulkes is enthralling as young Frederic, and Robert McLean and Matt Kahler delight as Pirate King and Major General, respectively. The pirates and maidens who comprise the remaining ensemble are just as impressive and a true joy to watch.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous (and agile), take advantage of the promenade seating. It’s much more fun and you might just end up in the show. Trust us, that’s a place you’ll be glad to be.

If you go

‘Pirates of Penzance’
Through June 2
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle St. Cambridge
$25-$35
www.americanrepertorytheater.org

 


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