I had never heard of the romantic comedy PERFECT TIMING by Kristi Kane before enjoying it so much at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills – and with good reason as this is only the second production of the play. This wild and often bordering on farce production is perfectly marvelous and brilliantly cast, directed with great style and panache by Bruce Gray who took over the reins just two weeks prior to opening. Add in the perfectly glamorous and homespun costumes by Michele Young and you have a perfect production that will keep you laughing throughout its quick two hour run time.
The story centers on beautiful art critic Cornelia (LA newcomer Helen Anker, who like her name, anchors the production with her brilliant portrayal) who loves her man, Alex (dashing Martin Thompson), but has no desire to get married, especially when she finds herself tempted by handsome and terribly sexy painter Gerrard (Shawn Savage whose animal magnetism oozes from his every pore). Can she possibly juggle two intimate relationships at once? Perhaps, but it would take perfect timing and somehow that never seems to work out well for her – nor any of the other characters that populate her life, with mistaken identities and misplaced love interests confusing them even more with every twist and turn of the plot, phone call, or opening door.
Cornelia’s best friend and roommate Vivianna (luminous Christine Joelle) falls hopelessly in love with Gerrard the moment she sees him (as almost any woman would) but must do her best to control her desire to tell him so, especially when he starts spending nights with Cornelia in their place. Joelle takes us with her as she emotionally spirals out of control with jealousy, turning to the bottle for comfort and then allowing another friend to set her up on a blind date doomed to fail before I ever happens.
When both Alex and Gerrard leave London at the same time, with each returning six months later to try and win Cornelia back. However, each has a new love interest which confounds matters, especially since both men confess their love for Cornelia at the same dinner party she organizes in her home with Vivianne’s help. In attendance are Gerrard and his French art patron and new love Lulu (fireball Aly Fainbarg). Of course when Alex drops in, Cornelia must keep Gerrard’s true identity a secret since she had previously confessed to leaving Alex because of her affair with Gerrard. Trying to keep things sorted out and secrets intact, Cornelia and Viv manage to work out their clever stories well together but confuse the others – while keeping the audience in stitches of laughter.
Further complicating things, a telegram arrives from homespun farmer Joseph Dingham (Thomas Webb) informing Viv of his intention to arrive soon and propose marriage, the farthest thing from what she, or as it turns out, he wants. Alex happens upon the telegram and mistakenly believes it is for Cornelia, so when debonair Joseph Foxsworth (Dennis Gersten) arrives after dinner, the blind date is mistaken taken for a man who plans to take his beloved Cornelia away from him. Until things manage to be set straight, the two poor Josephs are in for quite an evening!
And how does Foxworth know Lulu that causes such a fervent reaction from her? Then add in Alex’s new fiancée Laura O’Hara (lovely Sarah Kaidanow), a very young, down-home farm girl from Virginia who shows up and confides to Cornelia (who she thinks is Viv) about how much she does not want to marry Alex, and the stage is set for a couple mix-up that manages to stay comical and totally charming thanks to Gray’s spot-on and perfectly coordinated entrances and exits in and out of the front door, kitchen, and French doors to the patio on Jeff G. Rack’s perfectly designed set. The talented cast keeps the frenetic pace going strong with everyone guessing just how it will all work out and who will find out what about whom when!
Another nice touch happens when the stage crew comes in dressed as upscale French maids to clear the dinner table between scenes. We hear about the maid Lettie frequently during the play, but she never manages to be seen or heard. So this staging proves to be a nice nod in that character’s direction without a word needing to be spoken.
So put your cares aside during the holiday season and enjoy some sexy, naughty, and hilarious fun at PERFECT TIMING, a clever romantic comedy with a touch of British farce, at Theatre 40.