Mark A. Philbrick, BYU
Lon Keith, Cathleen Metten Lewis and Alexis Wardle in Hale Theater's "Don't Drink the Water."
DON'T DRINK THE WATER; Hale Center Theater Orem; 225 W. 400 North; through Feb. 9; (226-8600); running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes (one intermission).

OREM — Every once in a while a reviewer gets to see a production where "hurray" is the operative word. Such is the case with "Don't Drink the Water," an early Woody Allen comedy that pokes fun at the Cold War of the late 1960s. It's a delight from the first scene to the end.

The play was written in Allen's funny, whimsical, silly period when, if his all his dialogue didn't run amok, it at least walked amok.

In "Don't Drink the Water," ambassador James F. Magee (Nyle Smith) warily leaves his American Embassy post to his largely incompetent son while he makes a trip to the United States. The son, Axel Magee, played with hilarity by Bobby Swenson, is a train wreck who has been tossed from embassy to embassy, banned in an entire continent and hanged in effigy by his own people.

As soon as the father leaves, mayhem begins when an American tourist and his family are chased into the embassy for taking suspicious pictures, and the enemy demands they be shot. Walter Hollander is nothing more than a windbag caterer, but this is the Cold War and the era of paranoia. The Hollanders are perfectly performed by Lon Keith and Cathleen Metten Lewis in roles that seem made for them. He is a complaining buffoon and she is an annoyingly fussy Mrs. Perfect who makes one want to shred every Martha Steward or Rachael Ray magazine in sight.

The rest of the players are also superb. Marc Haddock plays a priest who has found shelter in the American Embassy somewhere behind the Iron Curtain for several years and occupies his time with bad magic tricks. Over the years he has become gently crazy, which makes him fit in ideally with the rest of the cast. He is charming, and like the other performers, is clearly enjoying himself.

Alexis Wardle is Susan Hollander, and she is excellent as the slightly ditzy daughter who thinks danger is a fun romp. A menacing role is made funny as played by Gene Ledbetter, and Davey Morrison as Kilroy is a comic gem. Kaye Woodworth, who plays several small roles, get her moment as a drunken sultan's wife.

Often the most important person in a production is not seen onstage. Such is the case with "Don't Drink the Water." Jayne Luke is the director, and she has fashioned a delightful show that demonstrates her considerable talents. She has kept a frothy bit of theatrical fluff afloat with her gifted sense of timing, staging and casting. She is a real treasure, and her name attached to a show is typically enough to guarantee its quality.

Additional kudos go to Maryann Hill, Anne Swenson and Amanda Fitt for the delightful '60s costumes as well as the rest of the production team. Some of the roles are double cast, so additional players include Paul Hill, Mitch Hall, Jolene Sayers and Ben Wake.

So, while you may not want to drink the water, it's a safe bet to attend "Don't Drink the Water" for a post-holiday treat.

Charlene Renberg Winters is a freelance writer works as the director of communications and marketing for BYU alumni. Contact her at: