Cheeky WWII Comedy Improbable Frequency Employs Exhausting Wordplay, Awful Puns


The Irish Republic remained neutral during World War II, though its government did declare a state of emergency. Improbable Frequency, a musical set in wartime Ireland, perpetuates this sense of crisis. The jaunty and exhausting show—scripted by Arthur Riordan with music by Bell Helicopter—overflows with historical characters, genre musical numbers, advanced particle theory, strenuous wordplay, and some of the most awful puns ever to grace the stage. Cringe as characters drink each other under the table and prepare for the worst—or rather, the wurst.

The plot centers around British agent Tristram Faraday, a crossword-puzzle whiz, who is sent to investigate strange events in Dublin. There, he encounters poet John Betjeman, physicist Erwin Schrodinger, newspaperman Myles na gCopaleen, and a pair of comely lassies. Riordan provides rhymed verse for both the songs and the dialogue. His cleverness and the pace at which his words are uttered (not to mention the strong accents and weak amplification) had several audience members covetously eyeing my copy of the script and voicing confusion during the intermission. But, as Myles sings, “There’s not many folk can pull off the bold stroke of ignoring the Second World War.” And there’s even fewer who could wring such a cheeky comedy about this forgotten epoch.

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