Monday, February 10, 2014
Theater review: Leading Ladies serves gold diggers, plot twists and consecutive laughs on a silver spoon
This is a farce you don't want to miss.
INCREDIBLE. Leading Ladies by Runway Theatre was absolutely incredible. From the first line to the last, the play was a riotous, non-stop laugh fest. The characters were quirky and lovable. The play was fast-paced and engrossing.
The play centers around two down and out English actors, Leo Clark and Jack Gable, touring the Midwest with a “Scenes from Shakespeare” two-man show. Penniless and on the verge of quitting, the two discover that an ailing millionairess, Florence, is looking for her sister’s lost children Max and Steve who were taken to England at a young age. The actors hatch a plan to impersonate the children in order to inherit the widow’s fortune. A sudden discovery about the children changes their plan and makes the plot all the more hilarious.
The set design by Judy Bauman Blalock was warm and inviting. The play took place mostly in Florence’s living room and therefore did not require many scene changes. Florence’s living room had a small town feel to its furnishings and encompassed the action of the play rather well. One of the scene changes at the outset of the play was to the Shrewsbury Moose Lodge. Blalock and Co-director Evelyn Davis did a wonderful job incorporating the audience into this scene by cutting Florence’s room off from the audience with a large red curtain. Additionally, the train scene where Leo and Jack were traveling to Pennsylvania was well done with merely a few benches and some special lighting and sound effects.
Costume design by Patsy Daussat was wonderful. The initial dresses for Leo and Jack were hilarious. Leo looked like an ugly Cleopatra and Jack had a dress with wings -- priceless.
Lighting design by Kristin Burgess was fairly standard, however the train scene really stood out. The lighting established the feel of light shining in through train windows. Matthew Crawley’s sound design was another aspect that added to the train scene. The whistle blowing of the train and the subtle train noises gave the illusion of a moving train.
The true test of any comedy is the actors’ ability to deliver lines quickly and precisely. In this cast there was not one weak link. Everybody was firing on all cylinders and even when the actors were not part of the primary dialogue their actions and expressions were appropriate and outrageous.
Amber Sebastian, as Meg, was delightful to watch. Sebastian had a quirky way in which she got excited about Leo Clark and Shakespeare that was almost childlike. Her gasps and squeals were enjoyable as she reveled in the thought of meeting her idol. Of all the actors, Sebastian was the only one with a couple of noticeably missed lines. However, they did not diminish from the performance and were recovered well.
John Grissom played Reverend Duncan Wooley, the controlling pastoral fiancé of Meg. Grissom was good. Technically the only villain in the play, Grissom was perfect as the greedy minister. Grissom’s mannerisms when he spoke of the money and the foundation that he would “set up” with it belied his character’s personality. A few of Grissom’s funnier moments were his monologues where he demonstrated his distaste for the acting profession.
Dave Harper did a superb job as Doc, Florence’s medical doctor. Harper had a gruff, no nonsense approach and portrayed a believable, small town doctor. Harper had some good banter between him and Duncan but the majority of his appeal came from his physical comedy. Harper took great effort while climbing off of the couch, and when he appeared on stage with his Shakespearean costume, complete with jeweled codpiece and his gyrating hip thrust, the audience erupted in laughter.
Greg Phillips did an outstanding job as Leo Clark. Although at times, as he leered at Meg, he seemed almost lecherous, for the most part Phillips did a remarkable job. His English accent was noticeable, but not overpowering to the point of distorted line delivery.
Aaron Lett was excellent as Jack Gable. While Lett’s English accent was not as noticeable as Phillips, he had a greater range of physical comedy. Lett also had an amenable personality that translated well into the trusting partner of Clark.
Chuck Barlow as Butch had one of the more memorable scenes. Clark attempts to teach Butch acting and at one point Butch looks like a drunken chimpanzee. It was by far the best scene in the play. I hate to admit it, but Barlow played the dim Butch like a champ.
Jill Etheridge as Audrey was a perfect combination of pretty and polite. Etheridge had the girl next door attitude down perfectly and her performance was remarkable. Etheridge’s sweet demeanor and likeable charm made it believable that she could be swindled but yet the swindlers would feel bad about taking advantage of such a sweet girl. Etheridge did a masterful Marlon Brando impersonation.
Marcus Ridner plays Florence, the ailing millionairess with nine lives. Ridner was excellent as Florence, ornery and crotchety. Ridner’s shrill cries for Duncan made my hair stand on end and the way he hobbled across the stage with mad intention was hilarious and disturbing at the same time. Ridner was like an angry church lady and he was brilliant at it.
Leading Ladies by Runway Theatre is not a farce you want to miss. The laughter is continuous and the comedic situations more and more outrageous as the play progresses. The costumes, set design and superb acting make this comedy one of the first must-sees of the New Year.
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