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Charming, funny ‘Lagunatics’ is worth your support

Charming, funny ‘Lagunatics’ is worth your support
"Lagunatics," a local favorite satirical musical, runs through Nov. 5 at No Square Theatre. (Photo by Bree Burgess Rosen)

If you heard a joke about goats every year for 25 years, would you still laugh?

What about traffic, tourists or parking?

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Somehow "Lagunatics" has been making fun of its beloved city for a quarter of a century with a recurring stable of topics, yet the jokes somehow never get old.

Why? Because if quirky, ageless Laguna doesn't laugh at itself, it's likely to cry.

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The local favorite satirical musical started its weekend run Oct. 13 and ends Nov. 5. For tickets, visit nosquare.org.

It's clear the anniversary motivated the creators to put a little extra spice into the production: more bite, song and flair.

The writing seemed edgier, the music more spirited and the costumes more fabulous.

Founder Bree Burgess Rosen admitted from the outset that the performers are really trying to impress the audience this year, not just over the anniversary, but because of a much-needed expansion project.

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In the playbill introduction, Rosen made a plea for support.

"This won't give us the 500 seats and parking we long for, but it will give us dressing rooms, a costume shop and separate rehearsal space — all game changers for our programs," she wrote. "It will also just about double our overhead, and kill us financially. So now, we're officially asking for money."

For the first time, they are offering memberships that start at $40, hoping to add more income than just ticket sales.

"We promise to spend wisely and honor the town," she said.

As with every "Lagunatics," the satire is always sanded carefully around the edges — but with an old, unpredictable rasp. Sometimes there are sharp splinters; other times it's just smooth polish.

You can almost imagine writers Rosen, Chris Quilter, Rufino Cabang, Bridget English, Rebecca Lyles and Paul Nygro sitting around a table debating the details over wine and popcorn.

The result, however, does not resemble something from a committee as much as discrete points of view — fun, barbed and thoughtful when needed.

The show on Saturday was campy but lovable. Authentic and reaching. The song selection and singing were surprisingly good.

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There were new, young voices who added refreshing sincerity and bravado to the material. Evie Cant, a high school senior who first premiered in 2015 but missed last year, was captivating and poised. Chloe Lovato, also from 2015, has performed in several other No Square productions and the experience showed.

Eric Anderson is another newcomer who stole the show with his pepper tree skit.

It was hard to pick a favorite among the more than 20 songs. Each had its own personality and charm. Some relied heavily on the diverse music and just-right costumes to keep the audience engaged. Others were packed with witticisms and asides.

More often than not, audience members leaned forward, hoping to catch every word.

As is customary, city officials and dignitaries were in attendance, knowing they likely would be lampooned.

And this year was no different. There was a full city council parody that included a stand-in for City Manager John Pietig, who was in the audience, failing to suppress broad smiles.

With skits poking fun at countless ordinances — drones, cigarettes and others — it was hard not to at least nod in agreement.

Rufino did a brilliant, saucy rendition of "Send in the Drones," where he lamented the inability to flash for the aerial camera on the beach.

Another funny, how-far-will-they-go skit involved the recent anti-immigration group on Main Beach. Called "Farinella," the chorus belted out that there were "paparazzi — and one Nazi."

One number that got some of the largest applause was "Uber," with provocative lyrics by Quilter.

Imagine some cross-dressing seniors excited — maybe a little too excited — over the ability to order a hunky Uber driver at anytime.

"Uber in the morning, Uber in the evening, Uber at suppertime … ride him all the time," they sang.

Near the end of the show came Anderson as the pepper tree, which in real life was recently cut down at City Hall because it was old and dangerous with a nearly hollow trunk.

He asked an expert how hollow and was told 90%.

"So there's still a chance," he said.

If the real tree hadn't been cut down already, you probably would have wanted to save it, just because of Anderson's gusto.

There were too many highlights to name. From the clever writing to the practiced, hilarious choreography, this year's "Lagunatics" was one of my recent favorites.

But in order to keep this local brilliance going, you'll have to support it.

It's worth whatever they ask.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at hansen.dave@gmail.com.

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