May the Farce be with you
Cross-dressing. Mistaken identity. Mayhem, mixups and machinations. And a few slamming doors. There must be a farce in town.
Playwright Ken Ludwig knows his way around wacky comedies (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo”), and maybe “Leading Ladies” isn’t his best. But when the characters aren’t played too broadly and the timing is just right, there are belly-laughs to be had.
At the Coronado Playhouse, opening night got off to a sluggish start, with the two male leads bellowing their lines. But once Betty Boop-voiced Savannah Remington rollerskated in as airheaded Audrey, the pace and comedy picked up considerably. And the second act fairly flew; the various seductions and confusions are guffaw-worthy.
Don Evans and Frank Godinez make a dandy Mutt-&-Jeff comic pair, one large and hulking, the other small and agile (especially in his wide-eyed, malleable, Silly Putty face). When the plot dictates (à la “Some Like It Hot”) that the two don female frocks, Godinez makes quite an attractive woman. Evans pulls off the charade as well, as a big-hearted, plus-sized confidante.
Here’s the storyline: On a train somewhere in the sticks, two down-on-their-luck, playing-the-hinterlands Shakespearean actors see an item in the newspaper, a call from a wealthy woman who wants to see her sister’s long-lost children, Max and Steve, before she dies, so she can leave them a hefty chunk of her estate. Leo (Evans) convinces Jack (Godinez) that this is their Big Bucks break; they’ll pose as the relatives and split the family millions. Then Audrey skates on and spills all the backstory beans, the most important being that Max and Steve are just nicknames for Maxine and Stephanie.
So the guys dig into their costume trunk and the rest is… farcical lunacy. Aunt Flo (D.J. McLaughlin) believes and adores them, and so does cousin Meg (Jessica Seaman), the primary heir to Flo’s wealth. There’s less acceptance from a gold-digging doctor (Stephen McLaughlin, Sr.) trying to get Meg for his shy, Audrey-loving son (Nathan Boyer), and a scheming, mercenary minister (Robert Shadbolt), trying to get Meg for himself. But in a funny trip to happily-ever-after, Leo and Jack win the day – and Meg and Audrey.
Director Keith A. Anderson puts his cast through their paces, and while there’s a fairly wide range in acting acumen, the lead roles are well handled, especially by Evans, Godinez, Remington, Seaman and McLaughlin, Sr., who brings down the house in the crossed-connections seduction scene.
Oh, and there’s also a bit of Shakespeare, and a deaf mute who suddenly, to no one’s enormous surprise, starts to talk (that’s Jack). For every sensible moment, there are three of sheer inanity. But deep contemplation is not what this or any farce is about.
The costumes (Mary Anderson and Jessica Seaman) are a hoot, and the set is a nicely designed split-level living room. The musical selections, which often cut off quite abruptly, aren’t period-perfect (“Moon River” was written in 1961 and the play is set in 1958).
Quibbles aside, the overall effect is just what it should be: light, fluffy, mindless, escapist fun.
“Leading Ladies” continues through March 6 at the Coronado Playhouse.
Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm
Tickets ($15-25) are available at 619-435-4856 or www.coronadoplayhouse.com