Pink Panther lightens up the stage

I laughed along with the oddball characters in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” enjoying its outrageous plot and slapstick humor.

The play is based off of the film with the same name.

John Brown University’s version of the play uses spotlight and other low lighting on a bleak urban set, which contrasts well with the whacked storyline and characters.

Through sheer dumb luck, Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the French Sûreté, played by junior Chase Poage, always stumbles out of harm’s way and on to solve the case.

Clouseau must chase down the former chief inspector who he drove to madness, Charles LaRousse Dreyfus, played by freshman Matthew Bowen. Dreyfus escapes from the sanitarium and forces Dr. Fassbender, played by freshman Steven Hamilton, to create a doomsday machine. Dreyfus then threatens the world with just one demand: that Jacques Clouseau be exterminated.

Most of the Pink Panther films featured a pink panther character in their opening titles. I grew up watching the branched Pink Panther cartoon franchise, so I was happy to see the show expand that personality. Five panthers opened each act and also took care of transitions. What would normally be darkness with stage hands silently changing sets they transformed into a panther comedy routine. Some of their transitions seemed a little overlong, though there are plans to change that by opening night.

The pink panthers are played by seniors Kendra Chester, Jamie Odom, Rebecca Ridings, Stephanie Willis; and freshman Kristen McCrea.

I especially enjoyed watching all the students put personality into their roles, just as Director Jan Lauderdale had hoped. She wrote in her notes: “Every student put great thought into creating genuine, unique and memorable roles, no matter how few lines they had. I have fallen in love with each of the characters they have created, and we hope you will, as well.”

The play takes place in different bits of Europe. When Clouseau comes home to tussle with his Asian manservant, Cato, played by sophomore Seong Jae Jo, at first I reacted to the racist humor. As time went on, though, I realized the script played off of every racial stereotype it could; no one was exempt. If the play has any kind of moral, I would call it: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

This is not a play to sit and ponder the world’s deep questions, or to wonder about whatever happened to the United Nations after Dreyfus sent it to oblivion. It is a play to set your thinking caps aside for a while—you can get them again before class on Monday—and to laugh along with your friends.

Performance times are Feb. 15, 16 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 1:00 p.m. in the Berry Performing Arts Center.