A rollicking good time was had by all at Schenectady Civic Players’ opening night production of “Leading Ladies.”
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Players, 12 S. Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Oct. 23
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 382-2081, www.civicplayers.org
Sterling, star-turn performances, a gorgeous set (the ever-dependable Mary Kozlowski), glamorous, often witty costuming (Debra L. Lummis) and an inventive script make this an entertaining evening of theater.
Much of the credit for the success of the production goes to the “leading ladies” of the title. Jimmy Cupp as Jack and Paul Dederick as Leo are spectacularly talented as both actors and as female impersonators. They even bicker on occasion about who is the more attractive female.
Clark and Gable (that’s already funny) are a team of actors from England who have been reduced to playing “Scenes From Shakespeare” at the Moose Lodge in Shrewsbury, Penn. They have one dollar between them — not even enough to buy breakfast. They read of an elderly lady (Sally Farrell) in York, also in Pennsylvania, who is searching for her nephews, Max and Steve. She is dying and wants to leave them her fortune. Jack and Leo decide to become Max and Steve.
In an unlikely, yet somehow believable twist, they meet a roller-skating waitress (Meigg Jupin) who informs them that she knows the family and that Max and Steve are actually Maxine and Stephanie. The boys decide to go anyway and assume the identities of the missing nieces. Unfortunately, their ruthless scheme goes awry when they fall in love — Leo (Maxine) with fellow heiress Meg (Amy Lamena) and Jack (Stephanie) with the roller-skating waitress, Audrey.
Complications, as in all well-written farces, set in. Meg, you see, is engaged to Duncan, a smug and pompous preacher played with broad strokes by Mark Stephens, and Audrey is practically engaged to Butch (Ryan Davis), the son of the local physician, Doc (Phil Sheehan). The guys aren’t really that ruthless, after all, and the girls, not being full-out in love with their future husbands, become easy prey for the impersonators, who manage intermittently to assume their true identities. Simple, huh? But the cast and director (Melissa Putterman Hoffman) manage to put it all into perfect theatrical perspective.
Farrell, as Florence, the ancient, adorably irascible aunt, is a delight. Lamena offers a solidly comic performance, and Jupin is all bounce and sunshine and displays excellent comic timing. Sheehan has a wonderful moment as he reads a secret letter, intended for Duncan. He makes the most — along with Cupp — of some deliciously raunchy double entendre.
Ryan, as Butch, won spontaneous applause for his hilarious performance of a monologue from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Stephens is all bluster and piety as the minister. His performance is surely worthy of the “Snidely Whiplash Award” for devilishly evil intentions.
But it is Dederick and Cupp who anchor the production. Dederick creates a sweeping and charismatic Maxine while Cupp triumphs over seething frustration and the discomfort of constraining brassieres.
Kevin McNamara’s dance choreography is delightfully humorous, and the stage crew, led by Bonnie R. Lake, make seamless work of the many set changes.
If there are quibbles, they are incidental. An already overlong second act is made longer by some directorial choices, while the text brings up the possibility of the arrival of the actual nieces from England just a few too many times and, at times, injects silliness into a rock-solid comic production.
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