Even people not fond of farces — those frenzied comedies where actors run around maniacally around and doors open and close crazily — would fall for Williamstown Theatre Festival’s production of “One Slight Hitch.”
The rest of the shows are sold-out, and it’s no wonder. The production features a finely tuned comic performance by the wonderfully skillful Mark Linn-Baker and a second act monologue by Lizabeth Mackay that will knock your socks off.
‘One Slight Hitch’
WHERE: Williamstown Theatre Festival, Nikos Stage, Route 2, Williamstown, Mass.
WHEN: Through Sunday
HOW MUCH: Sold out
MORE INFO: 413-597-3400, www.wtfestival.com
It is 1981. President Ronald Reagan is making a speech on the radio and P.B., the youngest member of the Coleman family, is playing “Bette Davis Eyes” on her Walkman. The context is thus firmly established. But it doesn’t have to be. The events of the play could happen at any time — even today.
Still, the play’s major theme, the desire to control one’s own destiny, was mighty important in 1981, especially to women.
It is the day of Courtney Coleman’s wedding, and her mother Delia (Mackay) is running around frantically seeing to the details of what promises to be a “perfect” day. Her husband and father of the bride, Doc Coleman (Linn-Baker), wanders downstairs in his bathrobe and promptly pours himself a drink — straight scotch. We begin to see the family’s dysfunction.
Naturally, as in any farce worthy of its rubric, the doorbell rings and, as it says in the program, “So much for perfect.” Courtney’s former boyfriend, Ryan (Justin Long), shows up. He intends to write a modern-day “On the Road” and he’s been hitch-hiking across the country. He just happened to land on the Coleman’s doorstep in Cincinnati. Doc hastily hides him in the downstairs bathroom so the rest of the family won’t see him. Delia is hysterical enough without the former beau (a rough and tumble, yet charming rogue type) showing up.
We are then introduced to Courtney’s other sister, Melanie (Clea Alsip). We’ve already met P.B., played with adorable sassiness by Jeanna Phillips. Her name, incidentally, is actually Plant Ballantine, so it’s no wonder the family calls her P.B. Melanie is a nurse who is obsessed with, well in a family newspaper we’ll call it brief encounters (no names need be exchanged). And, finally, we meet Courtney (Megan Ketch). She has been jogging (two blocks) and is clearly out-of-shape for such exertion, but her husband-to-be, Harper (Ben Cole), an aristocrat and very sensible guy, thinks jogging is a good idea.
Minor flaws overcome
The play, written by Lewis Black and directed by Joe Grifasi, is not without its flaws. There may be a quibble or two about forced humor. Doc goes down into the cellar for a “bug bomb” to spray his prized Azalea, for instance, and comes back upstairs dressed in his fishing clothes — a rather obvious reference to his living in a house full of women.
But don’t let it bother you. There’s enough actual humor to keep you focused. The dialogue sparkles even if the first act is a bit talky. P.B. says of her role in the wedding: “I’m maid of honor by default. I’m the only virgin my sister knows.” And the hiding of the former boyfriend is hilarious.
The fact that young P.B. is the most grounded in a wildly dysfunctional family is a hoot in itself. And the final, unexpected and deeply touching moments of the play redeem any weaknesses in the text.