Review: The Behavior of Broadus

The Behavior of Broadus; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; $35-$40. Capital Stage, 2215 J Street; (916) 995-5464; Through January 3.
Rated 4.0

In its 17-year history, Capital Stage has never done a musical, but now the company is testing the waters with The Behavior of Broadus, a bright, crisp and wickedly entertaining production written by the team known as Burglars of Hamm (Carolyn Almos, Matt Alms, Jon Beauregard and Albert Dayan) and directed by Dayan with musical direction by Graham Sobelman.

It tells the incredible sort-of-true story of John Broadus Watson, father of behaviorism and modern advertising. What could be more wacky?

But wacky it is, with dancing barnyard animals (in amazing animal masks by Ann Closs-Farley), a wisecracking lab rat named Phil, a preacher turned scientist turned ad man, and lots of simulated sex, animal and human.

What ties it all together is the choreography of Ken Roht and precise dancing by the 11-member cast. Projections by Steve Decker, which adorn the stage’s back wall, give the piece historical perspective.

Francis Gercke as Watson and Don Hayden as the head of a university disciplinary committee give outstanding performances. Likewise, Alissa Doyle as Watson’s first wife, Andrew Joseph Perez as Phil the Rat, and Nanci Zoppi as Watson’s research assistant, lover and second wife are also excellent. Connor Mickiewicz as Baby Albert, whose behavior Watson molds and then changes, is excellent.

While Act 1 is a rollicking upbeat musical, Act 2 descends into darkness and drags a bit. Still, backed up by a four-piece band led by musical director Sobelman, this is an overall fun play and a good first musical outing for the typically groundbreaking Capital Stage.