I'd yawn and give this one two stars out of five if not for two items that stand out like a pair of timber wolves at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Keep reading to get the low down on just why you might want to give this one a try, without spoilers.
Let's get the bad news out of the way right up front. The play, taken as it is, just isn't all that great. Watching it makes me want to become a playwright because I'm convinced that I could do better. The motivations of the characters are a long way from being clear or thought provoking, and the humor isn't all that humorous. That said, the actors make the best of things and they've got a good deal of help from the director and the prop man.
The whole sordid business takes place in the formal gardens of a post civil war mansion. The trouble with the garden on stage is that the flowers you'll see in full bloom are never all in bloom at the same time. Either the director or the prop man isn't a botanist, or maybe the decided the audience wouldn't notice, or - I don't know. Whatever. The thing is that by the time the roses are in bloom, the tulips have faded into non-existence. Also there's no magnolia, a flower for which the South is famous, and there's no Spanish moss hanging from the ceiling, and there should be. Spanish moss hangs from everything down South. The costumes are pretty solid though, although the women could be a little more elaborate. Let me tell you guys, if you've never had the privilege of seeing a beautiful Southern belle in full afternoon regalia, you now have another item to add to your bucket list. It's enough to bring every single man to his feet when she walks into a room. But I'm digressing.
The acting is generally okay, with a few very noteworthy exceptions. To give all the actors credit, they all projected their voices well and enunciated their lines clearly, which is a whole lot more than many are able to accomplish. Here's the cast and my comments.
Eric Simpson as Jonsey Whitman. Jonsey is Floral's husband and is a real head case. The trouble is in the bedroom, but the real trouble is on the stage. I never got the sense that Jonsey was anything other than perhaps a frustrated high school history teacher who couldn't bring himself to tell his class to be quiet. He's window dressing.
Marissa Rex as Floral Whitman. Floral is the pregnant (about ten months pregnant, I'd say) wife of Jonsey, and really brings the part off nicely. A lot of the humor she brings to the stage is physical, and she does the sitting and standing bit perfectly every single time. Clearly she's spent a lot of time learning to lever herself off a bench and into a standing position, where she waddles around the stage. In between times Marissa does a good job with this role, although her motivations are not always clear - for which I blame the author of the play and the director.
Barbara Barkan as Kandal Kingsley. Kandal is the mother of Floral and Pandora, and brings off the part of the Southern belle so well and so completely naturally that I would forget I was sitting in a theater. Barbara has talent, but I think it's very likely she works hard at her role. She makes Kandal the absolute embodiment of all the gentle, gracious behavior you can still find in the South.
Ashley Gage as Pandora Kingsley. The future wife of Edvard Lunt, Ashley does a nice job with the part but she needs a little more support from the other men on stage with her. Which doesn't happen. Her role brightens noticeably when she has a scene with Barbara Barkan.
John DuVall as Reverend Jonathan Larence. The local sky pilot who is supposed to be a whole lot more than he seems, and he fails to bring that one off. For whatever reason, the man doesn't act so much as he walks around delivering lines. I get the impression John will do whatever the director tells him to do, but he must be told. This doesn't make him a bad actor, because he has a few high points during which he turns in a good, solid performance. But these are the high points, and they really are spikes in an otherwise flat line. This proves the man can act, but for reasons that are not obvious, he will not act.
David Engel as Edvard Lunt. The much older, more worldly and wiser husband to be of Pandora. Let's be blunt here. Physically, David fits the part. His costume needs work, as do his mannerisms. He just doesn't bring off the sophisticated, worldly suitor. Instead, he appears to be a down at the heels Southern gentleman who is watching his bank balance like a championship bowler watching his ball headed for the gutter and knowing there isn't a thing he can do about it. His carriage, mannerisms and delivery lack the certain savoir faire, the panache of the worldly Southern gentleman.
Jon Masters as Sidney Lunt. The slightly deranged son of Edvard. Jon could bring this role off with a little better direction and some more practice. As it is, he just looks like he's got a bad case of stage fright in the pit of his stomach waiting to put in an appearance. Even Barbara Barkan couldn't calm calm him down. Oh well.
I promised two items that make this entire play worth watching, and here they are.
1. The ladies. Barbara Barkan, Marissa Rex and Ashley Gage all turn in excellent performances, particularly Barbara Barkan, and it doesn't hurt anything that they're all hotties.
2. The LeMat Revolver. At one point during the play one of the men exits to retrieve a civil war pistol with which he intends to shoot one of the other men. He exits and returns in good time with, of all things, a LeMat revolver. I had to look several times to make sure of just what it was he had, but it was the real deal. A LeMat.
Here's the thing. Theater people are, with so few exceptions it doesn't matter, so far to the left that they actually think the government has our best interests at heart, and that all gun owners are terrible, evil people who should have all their guns confiscated by the government for their own good. See how benevolent they are? Somehow, and I cannot imagine how, a firearm aficionado got mixed up with this crew and brought historical accuracy to the play. Only a real firearms enthusiast is going to know the LeMat even existed, let alone know the role it played in the civil war. Then produce one to use in the theater?
Attention to this kind of detail is not something to be overlooked. I don't know who it was that supplied the revolver, but whomever it was my slouch hat is off to you Sir, and tonight I shall raise my mint julep and drink your health.
The only thing that would have improved the performance is if they'd loaded the revolver with powder and torched it off. No shot, just the powder. Oh well.
I'll rate this production 3 ½ stars out of 5, and if the men would put a little more life into their performances the production would hit a four easy.
If you haven't seen the play yet and want a nice alternative from the incredibly bad junk in the movie theaters, you've still got time. Here's some contact information:
The Village Players