Thursday, April 29, 2010

Millbrook: "Saving Grace"

With a new sound system in place, the Millbrook Community Players are presenting Jack Sharkey's comedy, "Saving Grace", directed by Fred Neighbors, and with a small ensemble cast of veteran actors and a newcomer to the local theatre scene. The small, but appreciative, audience often punctuated the performance with loud laughs stemming from the clever script and the timing of the actors.

The comedy of this script stems from its witty dialogue and characterizations, as well as from conventional mistaken identities brought about by virtually everyone pretending to be what they are not.

Grace Larkin [Ashley Allman] invites her boss Walter Chepple [John Collier] back to her apartment for a late night drink...and she is a nervous wreck; it is her first attempt at romance, and she spouts many cliche-ridden quotations from B-films to which she is addicted. -- He, on the other hand, appears to be an experienced Lothario and invites her to accompany him to a business convention in Hawaii, complete with a special sexy outfit he bought her and which she models for him as a birthday present.

Awkward moments for each of them are interrupted by the arrival of a telephone repairman named Alex [Paul Travitsky] and Grace's sister Harriet [Rae Ann Collier] who is being pursued by her suitor Gregor [Dave Kelsen] a Russian evangelical preacher.

The script contrives to have characters leave the stage at critical moments, only to return to overhear partial conversations that cause them to draw the wrong conclusions, or to find other characters in an assortment of compromising positions...all standard conventions of farcical comedies.

There is a good deal of success in the performances. Most of the clever dialogue is presented by this ensemble with a naturalistic understanding -- a lot of double-entendre -- and spot-on timing, and in Ms. Allman's case, some wonderful facial mugging that clearly indicate her predicaments.

But, plays of this type also require a variety of pace -- some fast and furious, some slowed down in exhaustion -- to highlight the emotional and physical intensity of the script. Some attention to this would benefit the two-hour production.

And there appears to have been some reticence in both physical intimacy and in costuming. Every kiss is either a perfunctory peck or a chaste one when it should be smouldering and lingering, and everyone remains dressed in very demure clothing, especially when wearing underwear and caught in the aforesaid compromising positions. Though a red Union suit may draw a laugh in and of itself, it hardly compromises the characters in question of the assumed dalliance or being caught in the act.

Nonetheless, this production of Saving Grace is a funny entertainment that provides audiences with an old-fashioned laugh-out-loud night at the theatre.