Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Millbrook: "Child's Play"

Continuing its challenging 2011 season, the Millbrook Community Players are staging Child's Play, a comedy by Jacqueline Lynch under the direction of Dean Kelly.

On its comfortable living/dining room set [located too far away from the audience, unfortunately] this short two-act piece combines love, jealousy, hypnotism, celebrity, petty arguing, and business-dealings in its sundry relationships among the characters.

Margaret [Kari Gatlin] and Janet [Hailey Beene] are roommates expecting a visit from Hollywood heartthrob Shane Velasco [Michael Williams] to sign a book deal. In comes Hank [Joaquin Guzman] -- Margaret's ex and rival agent -- who brings "famous" hypnotist Guadalupe Montevideo [Madyson Greenwood], an eccentric sort who hypnotizes Margaret out of spite, turning her into a 5-year-old, and then disappears. Psychologist Norman [Chris Kelly], intending to go out on a date with Janet, gets to practice his skills on the now childlike Margaret. -- A lot of confusion ensues over the next hour-and-a-half, with several attempts to locate Guadalupe and restore Margaret to her adult self.

This is pretty predictable stuff, but does engage the audience in its assortment of plot twists and engaging performances. -- Mr. Guzman brings down the house with his antic drunkenness, and Ms. Gatlin grows in her depiction of a 5-year-old by adding petulance and mischief to her bewilderment. Mr. Kelly has the ability to be both compassionate to the "child" and fully frustrated by the predicament.

Getting off to a rather slow start, and with vocal projection a problem, the play picks up energy with Mr. Guzman's and Mr. Kelly's arrivals, and then continues in style. -- Director Kelly often has characters staged behind furniture or upstage of other actors, making them hard to see and hear, but there are a lot of clever lines delivered confidently.

A couple of script references to childhood trauma and losing parents when children adds a serious note that gives breadth to characters. And the arrival of Margaret's grandparents [John Collier & Rae Ann Collier] in Act II enlivens the already confused ensemble to unravel the truth; and when the hypnotist is finally brought back to release her victim, all will end happily.