Don Zolidis’ play about an alcoholic 200-pound capybara with possible magic powers, “The World’s Largest Rodent,” is a largely successful comedy about sex, adolescence and comatose mothers that scores when it tries to be funny and fails when it attempts to be serious. The world premiere production at the Victory Theater Center gets the maximum amount of laughs from the uneven play, with a terrific cast bringing its formidable comedic talent to bear.
The play is overlong, and the insertion of serious drama creates such a tonal shift that it drags down the show centered on troubled teenager Billy (Andy Gobienko). Not only does he have a louse of a father who abandoned the family, but his Mother (Mary Carrig) tried to kill herself and is hospitalized in a coma. His older sister Meg (Kim McKean) is preoccupied with her Latin lover, Reynaldo (Vincent Giovanni), and her Internet porn modeling job.
Nobody cares that he’s being thrown out of school, so Billy mostly spends his time chatting with the Capybara (Kelly Van Kirk) who lives under his bed. Things change when Billy meets pleasant young Chastity (Aria Noelle Curzon), but not enough to keep him from kidnapping his mother from the hospital and bringing her home, which could lead to her death.
Gobienko does solid work as Billy, but his mostly straight-man role does not mesh with the broad comedy of the majority of the play. Curzon sparkles as the somewhat innocent Chastity, and McKean is effective as the prickly Meg. Giovanni is hilarious as Reynaldo, described in a slide as “a stereotypical Latino guy from some Latino country,” and his richly comedic attempts to make Billy into a man are a highlight.
Van Kirk impresses in multiple roles, from the frat-guy-esque Capybara to a cheerfully oblivious Indian phone rep, but he steals the show as the priest Father Lee, who tries to sell Billy on Catholicism by bragging “we eat the body of Christ” and asking him what other religion could top that. As Mother, Carrig does a lot with a role that requires her to do little, and she is scarily amusing as the Taser-wielding schoolteacher Mrs. Snarley.
Director Tom Ormeny elicits strong work from his actors and keeps the pace lively.
Brett A. Snodgrass’ multiple-use set is efficient, benefiting from a striking blue backdrop featuring text and artwork.