At The Theatre With Audrey Linden: Delicious Banter in Screwball Comedy

“Screwball Comedy” by playwright Norm Foster sizzles with Theatre 40’s fine ensemble cast of nine extremely talented performers brilliantly directed by Howard Storm. This is one of the funniest productions I have seen in a long time.

The play is set in a large North American City in 1938. Jeff G. Rack’s newsroom gives the perfect background for the actors to work in. We meet the irascible Bosco Godfrey, so well brought to life by Dan Leslie with a crumpled look and a messy shock of white hair. He’s not a sentimental guy and pulls no punches when he tells skirt chaser Jeff Kincaid (Lane Compton) his reportage is suffering. Smooth Jeff is spending too much time chasing the dames in the local watering holes. Bosco tells Jeff he’s no longer the ace reporter he was.

Comedic relief comes through the adorable pixie, Jonesy, secretary to Bosco. Oh, if she would just call him Mr. Godfrey. Gail Johnston sparkles as Jonesy. Mary Hayes comes into the newsroom to further her aspiring career as a reporter. She’s been a perfume sales gal but was laid off. But, she did write in college. Kate Whitney’s portrayal is spot on! She breathes life into her somewhat prim and proper dame. There is electricity between Mary and Jeff. Bosco further sets up tension between these two characters. He assigns the same story to both and the best story will go into the paper. If Mary wins, she gets the job. Wow! How’s a gal going to get the job and also get the guy? Mary sizes Jeff up as the skirt chaser he is. Heck, she is fiercely attracted to him. I loved the interaction between these two, especially when they were lip to lip. They had a relationship similar to Tracy and Hepburn in “Pat and Mike.” Delicious banter between these two. The dialogue was so biting and witty!

What’s the scoop? Seems the female publisher, Dolores Diddle, played a la Gloria Swanson diva by Sharon Shayne, who adds a touch of the blonde May West, wants her son’s betrothal covered. Jeff G. Rack created an elegant living room with rich colors and textures for this tapestry to weave. There is melodrama and intrigue with a subplot or two. Dolores wants to get the dirt on the fiancée, Gloria Fontana, and expose her for the fortune hunter Delores believes her to be. After all, Delores’ son, Chauncey Diddle (Niko Boles), has as much personality as a vegetable. Dolores cannot fathom any dame falling for her lazy, nerdy son. So, it is up to Jeff to interview Gloria by seduction and get the dirt. Meanwhile Mary will interview Chauncey. And the best story goes into the paper.

Dolores has a paramour in the suave and delightfully postured Peter Terwilliger. George Villas plays Peter to the hilt. There is marvelous physical comedy as these characters spring to life. Mary has great repetitive moves as a perfumer. I cracked up every time she did a callback gesture to her former job.

I am saving the best for last. Dolores has a butler or man servant, Reginald. Kudos to David Hunt Stafford and to Howard Storm for their creation of this fabulous over-the-top character. There is Reginald with an attitude of entitlement in a butler`s waistcoat and a mop of white poodle hair thrown atop his head with round black Iris Apfel eyeglasses. Yes, I laughed every time Reginald entered and opened his mouth to speak. I was captivated by the character of Reginald. Norm Foster gave Reginald brilliant and witty lines. But David brought something special to these lines. He really inhabited the character of Reginald. I could not stop laughing.

I am not going into the twists and turns or giving the surprise away. Both reporters think Gloria Fontana really loves Chauncey and vice versa. And it seems that Dolores and Peter really love each other too. But all is not as it appears as Mary and Jeff investigate. Will Mary’s story be better? Will she get published? Will Mary get Jeff? And will Jonesy ever call Bosco Mr. Godfrey? My lips are sealed. You have to see this heck of a play yourself! This is one you can enjoy twice. I will!

At The Theatre With Audrey Linden
August 1, 2018