Dirty, rotten, and hilarious

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, kicked off its national tour this past Tuesday at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The show was off to a late start due to some technical difficulties, but it was well worth the extra wait.

Scoundrels, based on the 1988 film of the same name, is a comedy in every sense of the word. Tom Hewitt and D.B. Bonds play two con artists, Lawrence Jameson and Freddy Benson, respectively, who are after the sympathy and cash of naïve women they encounter while “vacationing” in France.

Hewitt and Bonds, both talented actors in their own right, are even better when together. The show runs close to 2 1/2 hours, but the two players keep the audience members on the edge of their seats with vicious schemes and hilarious reactions to surprises along the way. Lawrence, a veteran con artist who lives in a lavish home on the French Riviera, meets Freddy, a fellow charlatan, on a train traveling to France. When Freddy learns of his true profession, Lawrence agrees to take him under his wing and teach him the ropes of upscale con-artistry. What proceeds are various schemes in which Freddy and Lawrence woo a number of wealthy women: an Oklahoma oil heir as well as an American “Soap Queen,” Miss Christine Colgate, who also seems to have a few tricks up her sleeve.

The only downside to the show is the extensive use of crude language and gestures by Bonds, who cannot seem to find a happy medium between humor and vulgarity; after the first couple scenes his Jim Carrey-esque gestures become tiring. The extensive use of offensive language turned off many of the elderly audience members, who were the overwhelming majority at Tuesday night’s performance. One elderly gentleman who wished to remain anonymous admitted he was more interested in watching the third season of 24 before exiting with his wife during intermission. Conversely, the younger members of the audience seemed less put-off. “I enjoy the modern storyline; I think it’s interesting,” said Louis Lamanna, a Pittsburgher in his teens. “I would recommend it.”

Some of the show’s more popular numbers included “Great Big Stuff.” When this song was performed at the 2005 Tony Awards, some of the more suggestive lyrics were bleeped out for the television audience. “Stuff,” wherein Freddy runs about Lawrence’s lavish home while the servants carry items of silver and crystal, is by far the most entertaining for the audience. Another showstopper was Laura Marie Duncan’s ethereal rendition of “Nothing is Too Wonderful to be True.” Duncan, who just came from playing the same role on Broadway, is incredible as the ostentatious Christine Colgate.

Unfortunately, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels had its last night in Pittsburgh on Sunday, though it will continue to tour elsewhere. Loyal to the film, the show is brimming with humor and features a great mix of ballads, up-tempo songs, and even a few rap numbers. Definitely not your typical musical theater show, Scoundrels is modern and refreshing.