Opening Nights: Iron Curtain

There are puns galore in this Cold War musical farce.

Compared with tsunamis, nuclear-reactor meltdowns, the global financial crisis, and Al Qaeda, the old Soviet Union looks like a pretty lovable kind of enemy. Sure, the nukes were lined up. Sure, our proxy wars caused untold suffering. But beyond the Russkie leaders' bearish exteriors, could they have been closeted musical-comedy fans? So suggests the exuberantly punny, groaner-filled musical Iron Curtain, which catapults two down-and-out Broadway stage tyros over to the USSR in the mid-1950s. Kidnapped and ordered to write a musical for Khrushchev's Minister of Musical Persuasion, Onanov (a dandyish Nick DeSantis), Murray (Jared Michael Brown) and Howard (Matt Wolfe) are soon composing capitalist-bashing ditties at gunpoint in a cement cellblock. Murray also falls for slender chorine Masha (lithe firecracker Danielle Barnum) after seeing her perform an agricultural number (sample lyric: "I'm threshing for you." Her last name is Haylukmikova, later changed to Partysova. If you don't enjoy such puns and wordplay, stay away, comrade. Meanwhile, Howard pines for the Chock Full o'Nuts waitress he had taken for granted back in NYC. Naturally this Shirley (plucky Carolyn Magoon) manages to hop the Atlantic and track him down in Moscow, resulting in one of the show's loveliest songs, their duet beneath crossed spotlights, "Half a World Away." But what brings down the house is when whip-wielding nymphomaniac choreographer Hildret Heinz (Bobbi Kotula) comically warbles her dilemma in "A Frau Divided." An off-Broadway favorite that debuted in 2006, Iron Curtain is a good deal flimsier than iron, but undeniable fun. This small ensemble production, ably directed by Steve Tomkins, reduces the Cold War to love songs, silly gags, and the gentlest of culture clashes. Good luck to those who, in another 50 years, try to do the same with our current headlines.

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