August 6, 2011 performance reviewed by Frances Benn Hall
Theatre Festival has presented the world premier of Kathleen Clark’s In the Mood. The play is described as a comedy but viewing the magnificent set as one awaits the play to begin, it is apparent the action will spill over into farce.
Because there before our eyes on the widest proscenium opening one can recall seeing at the BTF is the demanding farce stage and those five farce doors. The setting is the enormous upscale apartment of Perri Rubin (Erin Dilly) and her husband Derek (Damian Young) for whom Perri has planned a surprise birthday party and invited scores of guests. (Designer Lee Savage)
Should things go as she planned, the enormous living room, replete with grand piano, cocktail bar, rooms on second floor, and an elevator that opens directly into her living room could almost accommodate them.
One guest is already on scene when the play opens-Nick Eliot (Stephen R. Buntrock) who musing at the piano gets Perri to sing with him (a former boyfriend) the 1940’s hit song, In the Mood, and the play begins with Perri (ala Gertrud Lawrence) clad gorgeously in red, long blond hair hanging to her shoulders, and him, rendering the song.
At the end of the play one is about to see, the song is repeated, bringing the 75 minute, no intermission, play to a close very different from the one it seemed to begin.
The stage is well designed for the chaos that soon erupts. The apartment is on a high floor, naturally, and the elevator, upstage center, is, the desk informs, not working. This a great misfortune for guests struggling to reach the party (few do).
Among those who do are Perri’s husband and Carolyn Shore (Jennifer Cody, uninvited) and Edward Horton (Arnie Burton) and Sally Elliot (Johanna Day). No one else makes it, and the play’s cast is thus assembled for the hysterically funny situations and also snappy dialog and at times epigram, such as one remembers in Cole Porter and even Oscar Wilde.
A plot summary is being deliberately omitted. Audiences will find it out for themselves and respond with belly laughs as they did on opening night.
Director Marc Bruni has served his cast well. There is never time for a dull moment. Each of the six actors, all in significant roles are well cast and throw themselves physically as well as vocally into their roles-ones that when they entered they did not always know they had. Watch out for the word “contractor.” And for lines such as, “my ex-wife and I were the Lunts of Off-Off Broadway.” These are all actors who can think on their feet and roll with the unexpected.
It all makes for an enjoyable evening. As for the play itself, my feeling is that it should, and very possibly will, evolve into a longer two-act play. The script cries for it in trying to pack so much into 75 minutes, and the actors are so gifted and engaging, their talents cry for it too.
Meanwhile, it is rewarding, now and then, to be a part of a new play a-borning; and to wish it well.