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'Black Comedy' a rollicking good time

'Black Comedy' a rollicking good time

Peter Shaffer’s long one-act “Black Comedy” is pure, unadulterated fun, and for the 80 minutes you’r
'Black Comedy' a rollicking good time
Seen in rehearsal, Amanda Garcia is Carol Melkett and Gary Allan Poe is her father, Colonel Melkett, in "Black Comedy" now playing at Oldcastle Theatre in Bennington, Vt..

Peter Shaffer’s long one-act “Black Comedy” is pure, unadulterated fun, and for the 80 minutes you’re in your seat, you will thoroughly enjoy both the clever script and the ensemble work of Oldcastle’s fine cast.

The play takes place in London in the mid-1960s. Brindsley Miller (Jim Staudt) and girlfriend Carol Melkett (Amanda Garcia) are hosting a get-together for Carol’s father, Col. Melkett (Gary Allan Poe), and wealthy art connoisseur Georg Bamberger (Dan Silver) in order to show off Brindsley’s latest sculptures and ask for the Colonel’s blessing of their relationship.

Trying to impress both men, the young couple “borrows” the elegant furniture from the apartment of neighbor Harold Gorringe (Peter Langstaff), who is out of town.

Of course, no good can come of this or the fact that Clea (Ana Anderson), a former paramour of Brindsley, is in town and hankering for a meet-up.

Or the fact that just as the young Lothario thinks that he has everything under control, the lights in the whole apartment building go out.

Shaffer’s nifty trick is to have the stage lights up for the audience when the characters are in darkness, and vice versa; thus, we get to see them feeling their way around the apartment — and, at times, behaving most naughtily under the cover of darkness — as they try to figure out how to get the lights back on.

The conceit could wear thin, but Shaffer’s pacing is sure. He introduces a new character — neighbor Miss Furnival (Christine Decker), Gorringe, Clea, Schuppanzigh (Richard Howe), or Bamberger — at just the right moment to keep the play galloping forward.

Director Timothy Foley has assembled a crack tech team: Carl Sprague (set), David Groupe (lighting), Liz Stott (costumes), Cory Wheat (sound), and Tori Sheehan (stage management).

Special kudos to Decker as Miss Furnival, the judgmental minister’s daughter with a hankering for the sauce. Decker expertly calibrates her expressions, line readings and degrees of inebriation for maximum hilarity. And Staudt is simply the clown prince the part calls for. He can mug standing up, sitting, crawling, or flying through the air; his verbal timing is spot-on; and his manic energy reveals Brindsley’s range of desperation from A-Z. A tour de force performance.

And Bennington? Forty miles from Albany and 50 miles from Schenectady, the Vermont town makes an end-of-summer day trip to a smart downtown replete with food, drink, and a rollicking night in the theater.

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