|Stage Manager||Lynn Romano|
|LIghting Design||Dan Lewis|
'Leading Ladies' at Pa. Playhouse is farce at its best
By Dave Howell, Special to The Morning Call
January 31, 2012
"Leading Ladies" is a contemporary play with the feel of an old-fashioned comedy. Set in York, Pa., in the 1950s, it includes con men, bad acting, mistaken identity, cross dressing and falling in love. These themes can be hilarious no matter how many times you have seen them, as author Ken Ludwig and director Gary Boyer prove in the production at Bethlehem's Pennsylvania Playhouse.
The comedy opens as Meg (Destinee Deely) and her priggish fiancé Duncan (Brian McDermott) miss out on seeing scenes from Shakespeare at the local Moose lodge. That performance proves to be a disaster, as English actors Leo Clark (Anthony Cipollo) and Jack Gable (Mark A. Saylor) play to a disinterested audience.
As the two thespians find themselves penniless on a train, they read a newspaper article about the impending death of Florence Snider, who is leaving millions to her nieces Max and Steve, who she has not seen for many years.
Leo and Jack hatch a scheme to impersonate them and collect the inheritance. Their plans are complicated by a chance meeting with Audrey (Alex DeMartino), who informs them that the names Max and Steve are short for Maxine and Stephanie. But where millions are involved, the show must go on.
So Maxine (Leo) and Stephanie (Jack) show up at the home of Florence and Meg, who is a third heir scheduled to receive a fortune. Florence (Nancy Mikkelsen) turns out to be active, despite the presence of dim-witted Doctor Myers (John Bracali). It happens that Myers' son Butch (Keith Moser) is engaged to Audrey. It also happens that Leo falls in love with Meg, and Jack falls for Audrey.
The more convoluted the play becomes the funnier it gets, with a few self-referential winks at the storyline. Leo and Jack also appear as themselves, involving a lot of costume changes. Maxine directs a version of "Twelfth Night" using the substandard talents of Myers, Butch, and Audrey. Duncan is elated after he receives a telegram that the real Maxine and Stephanie are coming to the house.
Strangely enough, the plot is easy to follow. It is two and a half hours long, but moves quickly with this energetic cast, which works so well as a group. They play off each other with such finesse, the characters are perfectly believable despite the mayhem they create among themselves.
"Leading Ladies" is farce at its best.
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