AISLE SAY Florida
THE PLAYÕS THE THING
by Ferenc Molnar
Adapted by P. G. Wodehouse
Directed by Greg Leaming
Asolo Repertory Theatre Company
FSU Center for the Performing Arts/Mertz Theatre
5555 N. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota, 941-351-8000; 800-361-8388
In revolving repertory through March 13, 2008
Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker
Set in 1934 and moved to a Palm Beach hotel, Englishman WodehouseÕs adaptation of Hungarian MolnarÕs farce gains from straightforward American talk. Much is directed right to the audience, explaining--while using--such conventions as expository opening dialogue. No-nonsense conveying of a silly story becomes nonsense extraordinaire. Playwright Sandor Turai (Douglas Jones) and collaborator Mansky (James Clarke) bring young composer Albert (Juan Javier Cardenas) to surprise their star, his fiancˇ, with a last draft of their new musical. Through thin walls they hear old flame Almady (Bryan Torfeh) going sexually all out to stay in with Ilona (Dana Green). Since she seems to respond, Albert, crushed, will destroy his score. Sandor must intervene!
In short order Sandor provides a script, supposedly written by Sardieu, incorporating the exact lines of the overheard seduction. TheyÕre to be passed off for AlbertÕs benefit as if part of a rehearsal. Attending a fleshed-out performance, will he determine all just peachy? Will Sandor get proper revenge against former vocal coach Almady by giving him lines that incorporate long, tricky French aristocratsÕ and place names? And, if you take my recommendation, will you laugh as loud and as often as I did during the play-within-a-play?
Blame Torfeh, like Clifton Webb imposed on Groucho Marx, for looks that go with those crispily delivered, almost interminable French fun-lines. Rejoice in the return to Asolo Rep, after a sabbatical, of company patriarch Bradford Wallace, turning a bit-part whatshisname servant (Dwornitschek) into a comedic savant. As if taking a cue from this master, Marcus Denard Johnson garners laughs in a supporting role as a concierge ardent about the supposed Sardieu epigrams heÕs hearing. Enjoy Jones taking the lead with sophistication after a string of paunchy blusterer portrayals, while Clarke contributes a doubting but dutiful partner to the Sandor-shenanigans. Green sweeps about elegantly in Andrea HuelseÕs costumes while working hard to merit CardenasÕ believable final confidence in her. Reflecting the importance of a peach to outer and inner plays, Nathan Heverin incorporates both color and shape into his art deco scenic design. Dan KotlowitzÕs lighting also uses the tone, supplied in another way by Matthew ParkerÕs sound.
Alison Frost assisted the director. Marian Wallace stage manages. Time: 2 hrs., 10 mins., 1 intermission.