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May 14, 2014

'Addams Family' ooky, spooky and lots of fun

INDIANAPOLIS — The warped lifestyle of the comically dark Gomez and Morticia Addams clan is summed up in one line in the musical about the family now playing in Indianapolis.

Morticia, dressed in a slinky black Goth dress, talks to her daughter who has just announced she is dating a boy from a traditional American family. Morticia responds, "Normal is an illusion."

The quote, a creation of Charles Addams, the cartoonist creator of the Addams Family saga, continues, "What is normal for a spider is chaos for the fly."

That's the deepest, and most revealing, message in "The Addams Family," a fast-paced and romantic romp playing this weekend at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis. The production, based around one night with the macabre household, gives audiences everything it expects in characters and has a few surprises up its long, black sleeve.

The ancestry of all this goes back to the 1930s when Charles Addams drew his first cartoon about a family living in a mansion with Frankenstein-ish butler Lurch, prank-filled kids Wednesday and Pugsley, and led by the eccentric married couple, Gomez and Morticia.

In 1964, the campy TV show based on the ghoulish family debuted with John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia. In 2010, an original Broadway musical opened with Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia — stars whose fame and side glances likely carried the show across its rare dry moments.

Pacing here is quick as the plot is razor thin. Twentyish Wednesday wants to marry white-bread Lucas Beineke. The future in-laws are to meet for the first time in the Addams' house. And it works nicely, if not with some ridiculous segments, from there.

Granted, it's no humor-infused statement on racism a la "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" or a gender-bending romp as in "La Cage aux Folles"( with which it has many similarities). But like so many boy-family-meets-girl-family tales, love and relationships win over the appearance of proper tradition. Normal is indeed an illusion.

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