Elizabeth Milarcik

“Urinetown,” the Tony award-winning musical by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, offers a delightful change from the usual theater fare. Lighthearted and witty, Villanova Theatre’s production captures the playful nature of the show, reveling in the silliness of the characters and their antics.

“Urinetown” tells the story of a city suffering from a water shortage so severe that the people are forced to use “public bathrooms in order to take care of their private business.” These public bathrooms, however, are controlled by an avaricious company that demands high prices in exchange for use of its facilities. Many people find it difficult to make enough money to relieve themselves while they are also being relieved of their funds. The poverty-stricken townsfolk beg not for food, but rather for a “penny for a pee.” Those unlucky few who are unable to pay for “the privilege to pee” privately are forced to do so in more public locations, which is against the law. These rebels are taken to the mysterious Urinetown, never to be heard from again.

The cast of “Urinetown” is primarily made up of graduate students, giving a performance appropriate to their level of experience. While all of the performers are extremely talented, they are far from infallible, often singing off-beat or incoherently. These errors are, however, easily forgotten when one notices the cast’s high energy and enthusiasm.

An audience favorite is found in Officer Lockstock, played by Bob McDonald. As the play’s narrator, Officer Lockstock frequently (and comically) acknowledges that “Urinetown” is a play, rather than pretending that it is real life.

“Urinetown ‘the’ place is … well, it’s a place you’ll hear people referring to a lot through the show,” Lockstock begins. “…A place you won’t see until Act Two. And then? Well, let’s just say it’s filled with symbolism and things like that.”

“Urinetown” does not have a particularly strong plot, nor is the music out of the ordinary; the play’s true heart is in its humor. Luckily, comedy is abundant in Villanova’s production. Director Peter Donohue, in one of his last performances before moving on to bigger and better things (rumor has it he’s going to be president of some university … oh yeah, Villanova), keeps each scene fresh by inserting comical moments not only into the dialogue, but into the musical numbers as well.

The only times when the play does fail to entertain is when it attempts to be serious. As most musicals do, “Urinetown” boasts two young lovers, Bobby Strong and Hope Cladwell. This couple sings a great number of tender and corny songs, occasionally boring the audience. These moments do not usually last long, however, since the lovers, like all of “Urinetown,” are often the victims of comic mayhem.

Not only are the fundamentals of “Urinetown” spectacular, but the aesthetics are pleasing as well. Barby Hobyak Roche’s choreography is impressive, especially considering the limitations that Vasey Hall’s unusual stage can present. Although some of the smaller musical numbers favor certain parts of the audience, the larger numbers cater to all sides of the theatre, making for a rich viewing experience. The choreography is no exception to the comical tendencies of this production: be sure to watch for the spoofs on other musicals.

The sets are also quite remarkable. Both striking and efficient, the scenery is very professional, adding to the performance rather than detracting from it.

“Urinetown” is not only well done, but hilarious and fresh. If you want to see a play that will make you laugh out loud, do yourself a favor and pick up a ticket!

“Urinetown” is running through April 9 in Vasey Hall.