Medicine Ball

The Roar of the Greasepaint

REMEMBER Our Gang? Once in a while, about every third episode, inspiration would strike Spanky, who could never contain his enthusiasm. "Let's put on a show!" he'd declare. And every one of those loveable Little Rascals would have a part in the production. Darla would flutter and swoon. Alfalfa would flutter and swoon and croon in the lead part. Froggy talked like a frog. Buckwheat made the backdrop. Everything would be just fine until those rich kids from across the block showed up. They'd mess around with the scenery. Maybe they'd push Porky down and make him cry. And then they'd nab poor sweet Darla. Thank goodness faithful Buckwheat was on hand to trip one of the little villains in the Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. Even Alfalfa would get into the act, giving one of those rich kids a good pop in the eye. Back in the Depression, those Little Rascals always won.

Saint Misbehavin'

Written by Oscar Alcantara, Jonathan

Greenberg, and Jonathan Lisco

Directed by Michael Allosso

At The Hasty Pudding Theater

Through March 22

The Hasty Pudding show is counterinsurgency from the other other-side-of-the-tracks, with the opposition's best weapons turned against it. There's plenty of freewheeling good fun and innocent charm. But the rich kids mobilize weapons of their own, too-like daddy's checkbook to buy the best professional choreography, direction and technical wizardry money can lure to Cambridge in the middle of winter. Since there are "no gurlz allowed," mom's dressmaker gets the workout of the season, wrapping hairy chests in silky body stockings.

Opening night at the Hasty Pudding Show is what happens when the cast invites its tony friends over to join in the fun. Those well-scrubbed rich kids in cute little velvet suits nowadays are wearing tuxedos with bow ties rakishly angled. The Moxie has given way to a drink that pops before it fizzes. Anybody who's anybody among the campus bourgeoisie wouldn't miss it. It seems like anybody who's been anybody among the campus bourgeoisie since the Class of 1925 wouldn't miss it.

LAST night's opening of Hasty Pudding Theatrical #140, Saint Misbehavin,' delivered just what the audience wanted most. The champagne flowed, and anybody who couldn't be spotted in the lobby between acts just wasn't somebody you really wanted to talk to anyway. All that-and the show was a good one besides.

After a snappy opening number introduces Saint Misbehavin' Hospital-"If you're stricken with psoriasis/ We might think it's leprosy/ But in the final analysis/ Saint M's the place to be"-the action lags a bit. A too-complicated sequence establishes that the hospital's chief of staff, Dr. Xavier Lyfe (John Claflin), is keeping a mistress in the hospital at government expense.

The strange bit justifies-to the extent that a Pudding plot requires-Lyfe's complicity in an elaborate hoax masterminded by billionaire "horseshoe magnate" Richard Denuar (Jason Tomarken). Uncertain of his family's affection in his declining years, Denuar hits upon a clever scheme to test the love of his four daughters and sixth wife: He will feign illness and then stage his own funeral to learn his family's true feelings. Only those who love him for himself will earn a share of his fortune.

The pace picks up halfway through the first act, when Denuar arrives at Saint M's and blackmails Dr. Lyfe into helping with the subterfuge. But a civic-minded faction of the hospital's staff, outraged over the chief of staff's Medicaid scam, learns of Denuar's plan. Led by the hospital's German-accented head nurse, the authoritarian Barb Dwyer (Jon Blackstone), the insurgents resolve to bring down Dr. Lyfe while winning the fortune for themselves. They will share their information with one of the billionaire's daughters in exchange for a share of her inheritance.

In one of the evening's smoothest duets, brash young intern Greg Arius, played by the show's best voice, Adam Wolman, wins over the billionaire's man-hating daughter, Miss Anne Thrope (Todd Fletcher). If Miss Anne cries crocodile tears while her sisters and stepmothers celebrate Denuar's death, she will gain his confidence--and eventually the lion's share of his estate. Secretly, Nurse Dwyer plans to bring about the horseshoe mogul's death with arsenic from Saint M's lab.

This all makes for a pretty complicated Pudding plot. Fortunately, though, the authors of this year's script-Oscar Alacantara, Jonathan Lisco and Jonathan Greenberg-realize that people come to Pudding shows for lyrics, puns and kicklines.