Aside from impeccable performances by Leigh Barrett and Ed Hoopman, the first act of the Lyric Stage Company’s production of “Animal Crackers” is tired and lifeless. And it’s rife with dull musical numbers that would put you to sleep if not for bad harmonies that make you sit up and take notice.
Act II fares better as Barrett, Hoopman, Aimee Doherty and Nael Nacer manage to create some of the spark that makes Marx Brothers’ humor fly. Hoopman’s Groucho playing Cpt. Spaulding delivers the infamous silly, pun-laden banter with impeccable timing and a joy that makes you wish they would cut the musical numbers and stick to the shtick.
While they’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to cut the superfluous tap dancing, knock 15 minutes off the run time and tighten up the entrances and exits. There’s a requisite precision to this humor the production sorely lacks. The jokes should be flying so furiously that you miss some of them. Instead you’re left hanging in an exhausting gap, wondering what’s taking so long to get to the next funny moment.
Though Barrett flawlessly matches Spaulding’s wit with Mrs. Rittenhouse’s daffy, society lady cluelessness, Alycia Sacco never quite captures the playful, almost childlike magic of Harpo. The tomfoolery should feel organic, not a byproduct of going for the laugh.
Aimee Doherty delivers the show’s most impressive vocals but proves to be too formidable in duets with Jordan Ahnquist and Merissa Czyz, who might benefit from microphones.