May 22, 2013
Written by Joanne Greco Rochman
Friday, 22 February 2013 11:53
When it comes to a grand comic moment, playwright Ken Ludwig knows just how to set it up. He brings together a screwball husband/wife actor team with a hard-of-hearing mother-in-law, a pregnant mistress, conservative daughter, a shy fiancée, an ex-boyfriend, and a lawyer. Put them together and you end up with a wickedly wild comedy.
The husband/wife team of George and Charlotte Hay is performing “Private Lives” and “Cyrano” in repertoire in a rundown theater in Buffalo. As fate would have it, a Hollywood movie opening becomes available to them, but oh, they are so not able to answer that door when they hear opportunity finally knocking.
Not only has director Lynn Paulella Beard pulled together the dream-team cast for this hilarious comedy, but she has an impeccable sense of timing. Like a line of dominoes, everything falls neatly into place with synchronized symmetry.
Dick Terhune as the comic lead delivers such a highly polished performance that the others in the cast have no choice but to play off him and they do that well. So many times, character actors play a drunk stupidly. Not Terhune. He is one of the all-time best on-stage drunks. Betty L. Olson is spunk personified as Charlotte. She never misses a moment to accent just the right word, facial expression or action for comic effect. Rodney Kluessendorf is priceless in the role of a shy weatherman and Tina Parziale at her most demure is picture perfect. Trisha Carr as the ingénue is flippantly fluff, while Sarah Tames as the near-deaf mother-in-law earns every laugh with understated excellence. Stephen Michelsson and Timothy Huebenthal both deliver solid performances rounding off an overall hilarious production.
Since all the action takes place in the backstage Green Room, scenic designer Nathan Bourke gives the actors plenty of room to romp around in. He also gives them five doors to slam, stairs to fall down, and plenty of furniture to trip over. Kevin Hales, Sr., the master carpenter, did a great job in keeping everything opening and closing smoothly. Rob Richnavsky choreographed the sword fight scene, which was reenacted flawlessly, and Renee C. Purdy’s costumes were character-definitive as well as riotously funny, as when drunken George steps into his Cyrano costume.
There are mistaken identities, dropped lines, and all the stuff that really does happen backstage in the theater. One scene that had the audience laughing out loud was when the actors try to sober George up for a performance. The bottle of Irish whiskey is pulled out of his hand and given to his mother-in-law. She thinks that she is supposed to make Irish coffee instead of just preparing the coffee. Needless to say, instead of sobering George up with coffee, he gets more and more intoxicated.
Don’t miss this show. It’s the perfect antidote for the February blahs. It plays through Feb. 24 at the Warner Theatre in Torrington. Box office: 860-489-7180.
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