Mr. First-Nighter

Our reviewer reports on all things theatrical

This week saw the opening of three local stage productions. Though vastly different, each has elements that will appeal to virtually every type of theater-goer.

If it’s standard British farce you seek, look no further than Centerville Early Dinner Theater’s latest offering, “Blimey! I’m Naked!”. For over 20 years, CEDP has combined slapstick comedy with adequate table fare to produce a fine night out for the mostly senior crowd.

The current production is no exception. The show has everything we have come to expect: 5:00 curtain time, slamming doors, mistaken identities, lingerie, and British accents. Check and double-check.

This is the 27th play by Vincent St. Vincent Vincennes to be staged by CEDT. As always, the cast is ably led by Naomi Felby and Bob Olsen as upper-crust Londoners with a secret. Newcomer Tiffanee Thompson is the daughter who yearns for excitement, and Carl Moscone is the street-wise punk who aims to provide it. Moscone has played the role of the troubled youth in all of the previous productions of Vincennes’ plays, and his energy and perfectly coiffed hairpiece belies the fact that the actor is now approaching 60. Regulars to the theater will also recognize Jake Pflug in the brief but memorable role as the British bobby who appears near the end of the piece.

If improbable plots, stock characters and safe cuisine are your cup of tea, “Blimey! I’m Naked!” is the show for you.

At the other end of the theatrical spectrum is “Destiny Inveigled”, staged by Theatre Dritt. This dark effort by local playwright Tovald Yangler would be a difficult piece for any troupe, but it completely overwhelms this cast, which includes Hjalmer Johnson, Jonas Hjalmerson, Sigmund Jones and Josiah Sigmundson. Try as they might, the foursome never quite unlocks what certainly must have been the author’s point, despite nearly 3 ½ hours of effort.

This is not the first time Theatre Dritt has chosen the theatrical road less traveled. Their initial offering was “The Song of Nothingness”, a musical loosely based on Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot.” Though a flop (it closed after 2 ½ nights), the few audience members who were still there witnessed an astonishing tap number midway through Act II. Their next effort was a surprising staging of Shakespeare’s “Taming Of The Shrew”, presented in 10 minute increments over the course of 18 Sundays. Tragically, the last show was staged at the same time as the Super Bowl, somewhat dampening the turnout.

Though “Destiny Inveigled” is far from a satisfying effort, you’ve got to admire Theatre Dritt’s willingness to push the envelope of the modern American theater.

Finally, Thursday night saw the premiere of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” by The Sophistry Players. If you think you know this classic by Tennessee Williams, this production will make you think again. A collaboration in the truest sense of the word, this staging transcends standard dramatic forms and resists theatrical pigeon-holing.

Director Linus Waldorf makes several astonishing choices that completely re-imagines the author’s original intent. The foremost of which is the casting of Penelope Westerveldt in the role of Big Daddy. Though only 19, this diminutive spark plug of an actress has played the ingénue in a number of plays around town. But from her first appearance in a baggy white suit, floppy hat and comic mustache, you realize that this is a performer with a difference. Despite star turns by J. Charles Fitzhugh as Brick and Cindy Rae Mazzoni as Margaret, it is Westerveldt’s Big Daddy that captivates us from start to finish.

Another of Waldorf’s thought-provoking choices is the casting of veteran Victor Glumley in all of the other roles. Though jarring at first, Glumley soon wins us over with his wide range of voices and mannerisms. Although the pace of the play is harmed somewhat when Glumley has to change costumes (especially in the scenes where he is playing multiple characters in the same scene), the overall sense is that we are witnessing an actor at the full measure of his talent.

Run don’t walk to see this tour de force. It will make you laugh, cry and—most importantly—think.

Today’s Fact-Cetera

Approximately 673,693 Americans have the same birthday as you.

 

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