311 West 43rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 27, $27.50-$65
Perhaps the Mint Theater, usually so adept at digging up long-forgotten works and bringing them wonderfully to life (Katie Roche, London Wall), subtitled its latest unearthing, Jules Romains’s Donogoo, “A Comedy” to tell the audience that it is supposed to be funny. Unfortunately, there are few genuine laughs to be had in the disappointing farce, which has been performed in America only once before, in a 1961 production by the Greenwich Mews Theatre. In 1920, French writer Romains, author of the twenty-seven-volume Men of Good Will, published Donogoo-Tonka or the Miracles of Science: A Cinematographic Tale, and the satire about commercialism and colonialism was turned into a play ten years later. Newly translated and directed by Gus Kaikkonen, who did the same with the Mint’s 2010 revival of Romains’s Dr. Knock, or the Triumph of Medicine, the play, which the program describes as “A Comedy in 23 Tableaux,” follows the suicidal Jacques-Patrice Lamendin (James Riordan), who is saved from jumping off the Moselle Bridge by his friend Benin (Mitch Greenberg), who recommends that Lamendin see Dr. Miguel Rufisque (George Morfogen), a biometric psychotherapist who specializes in giving a reason to live to people considering ending it all. After putting Lamendin’s information into his computerlike apparatus — ingeniously concocted via live projections and real doors by set designer Roger Hanna and lighting designer Price Johnston — Dr. Rufisque gives him his prescription for life, which involves Lamendin’s having to serve a nose-blowing stranger.
Soon Lamendin dedicates himself to reestablishing the reputation of geographer Yves Le Trouhadec (Morfogen), who has been denied election to the Academy of Sciences because of a study he published about Donogoo-Tonka, a South American village that he made up. With the help of banker Margajat (Ross Bickell), Lamendin heads off to make Donogoo-Tonka a reality in order to get Le Trouhadec into the academy while also bringing purpose to his own renewed life. Donogoo evokes Monty Python’s adventure sketches, but there are more laughs to be found in five minutes of the latter as compared to the 140 minutes of the former. The intentionally broad overacting is actually too broad, and the jokes are old and flat. Magajat sort of sums things up when he tells Lamendin, “It’s a little lame. . . . No — no jokes!” However, Hanna and Johnston’s projections are phenomenal, as the actors magically spin globes, pull books off shelves, and open and close doors by interacting with film. But even those go away in the second act, as various prospectors head to Donogoo-Tonka to change their fortunes, a journey that is not worth joining.