September 2, 2014
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Theater Review
O’Donnell’s ‘Ant’ny Claus’ is back with a vengeance
Don Fowler

Rhode Island’s funniest comedian, Frank O’Donnell, wrote and presented his dysfunctional family play “Ant’ny Claus” at Woonsocket’s Theatre Works last year to sold out audiences. The reception was so positive that O’Donnell decided to come back this year with “Ant’ny Claus 2: A Dysfunctional Family Sequel.”

O’Donnell is one funny guy with an often warped mind and good instincts as to the Rhode Island culture. His one-liners come fast and furious in this two-act, two-hour spoof…so fast that some of his observations are lost in the laughter of the previous lines.

Last year the action took place on Christmas Eve, as Ant’ny (Geoff White), son of Santino Claus (Mark Anderson) took his father’s place delivering toys.

The sequel picks up the story on Christmas morning, with Ant’ny, Bruno the Elf (John Morris) and his lead reindeer (Lynn Nadrowski) returning from the sleigh ride with broken arm, broken leg and broken antler. It seems that the sleigh bounced off and damaged the roof of Johnston’s leading mobster, Don Roberto Capobianco (Bill Beatini). The family lives in fear for their lives, which proves to be all for naught in a clever, hysterical ending.

Ant’ny has many diversions: a drunken, hung-over wife, two weird kids, a sister and brother-in-law, a Jack in the Ice Box (you’ve got to see it to believe it) a gay neighbor, the reindeer’s pesty mother, a dentist who thinks he’s a doctor, the Don’s macho son and his sexy girlfriend, and an insurance investigator. They all have their moments, making up the weirdest group of characters ever assembled on one stage.

And then there is Grandma, aka Carmella Sr. Connie Anderson is worth the price of the show and much more, dominating the family and making the kitchen, where all the action takes place, her own. Anderson has perfect comic timing, taking O’Donnell’s funniest lines and making them her own. All she has to do is turn her head or blink, and she will make you laugh out loud. Some of the cast members need to pause after she draws loud laughs to give the audience a chance to recover. This is one funny lady.

One of the best parts of the show is the cameo appearance by a TV celebrity. On Saturday, we were treated to Barbara Morse Silva, who fit right in with the craziness and proved to be quite a comedian in her own right.

Intermission features a free drawing for a popular restaurant, a 50/50 raffle, coffee and homemade desserts and O’Donnell entertaining the crowd as only he can.

The play is on the stage at TheatreWorks, 142 Clinton St. in downtown Woonsocket, and runs through Dec. 9. The first two shows were sellouts, so get your tickets right away.


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