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The-atre October 2000 Theatre Reviews

THEATRE REVIEW

Ravenscroft
What: comedic mystery by Don Nigro. Community theater.
When: 8 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (2 p.m. matinee Oct. 29) and Nov. 3 and 4
Where:, 10 W. Lea Blvd., Wilmington
Admission: $6 (children), $10 (students, seniors), and $12 (adults)
Information: 764-1172

Theatergoers, Agatha Christie fans and anyone who enjoys a good “whodunit” won't want to miss the Wilmington Drama League's latest entry, especially if they don't mind a bit of humor in their murder mysteries.

Don Nigro's "Ravenscroft" is a witty mystery thriller that suits the Halloween season perfectly: the setting is an old mansion, rumored to be haunted, on a cold and snowy winter's night and the dialogue is wicked and spirited.

Nigro, a contemporary playwright with nearly 200 plays to his credit, often creates stories set well in the past and this play is no exception. Taking place one evening in late 19th-century England, the action is confined entirely to a drawing room at Ravenscroft Manor where police inspector Ruffing investigates the death of Patrick Roarke, a servant and ward of the Ravenscroft family who took a tumble down the manor’s large main staircase.

Ruffing is curious about the circumstances and spends the night interviewing the five women that live in the country house. When the inspector exposes gaps and "agreed-upon fabrication" in their stories, he suspects foul play.

Each woman, of course, is under suspicion: there’s Marcy, the beautiful but evasive Viennese governess; the lusty Mrs. Ravenscroft, the lady of the house; her strange but alluring daughter, Gillian; and, finally, a pair of cockney servants, maid Dolly and the cook, Mrs. French.

While the first act sometimes languishes in exposition and character exploration, the second act pays us back big and funny dividends. The ladies baffle Ruffing’s attempts to get at the truth by playing with his words and conveniently omitting facts. As their desperation intensifies, so does the comedy.

The performances are generally strong, but Ted Ford--onstage the entire time--is a standout as the frustrated inspector Ruffing. The "desperately lonely" Mrs. Ravenscroft is depicted with devilish flair by Alicia Ann Chomo and Marcy is played with cool calm by Georgiana Staley. Kim Garrison is a joy to watch as the queasy maid Dolly while Marlene Hummel delivers a dark yet funny turn as Mrs. French. Meghan Delaney is enjoyable as the spoiled and slightly unbalanced Gillian.

Yes, the playwright can take much of the credit for the hilarity; however, this production mostly benefits from effective stage direction by director Ken Mammarella (with assistance from Mathew Schwartz), appropriate period costumes by Doris Hines and Ruby Stanley, and a simple, well-lighted set that allows the audience to focus on the performances.


THEATRE REVIEW

It’s Only A Play
What: comedy by Terrence McNally. Community theater.
When: 8:15 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (2 p.m. matinee Nov. 12) and Nov. 17 and 18
Where: Chapel Street Players, 27 N. Chapel St., Newark
Admission: $5-$10
Information: 368-2248

The latest production at Newark’s Chapel Street Playhouse, "It’s Only A Play," blithely exposes theatre people’s inherent conundrum: actors and playwrights choose a business where rejection is a way of life, yet they have big egos and crave acceptance and praise.

Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally ("Kiss of the Spider Woman", "Master Class") provides us with yet another satirical look behind the scenes of the modern theatre, complete with a slew of in-jokes and more than a few jabs at the theatre critic.

The play’s setting is fictitious producer Julia Budder’s second-floor bedroom during the opening night party for playwright Peter Austin’s latest Broadway play, "The Golden Egg."

It is in this swank Manhattan townhouse that the cast of eight characters anxiously await the reviews--as the celebrities revel downstairs--that will either validate their stage prowess or emotionally devastate them. What will the pivotal article from Frank Rich of the "New York Times" say about this goose’s product?

Director Ruth K. Brown makes some interesting choices and effectively stages this comedy on a finely-detailed set designed by David Sokolowski. Most every character is decked out for the opening-night bash with costumes by Tina Young, with some help from Formal Affairs of Newark.

If self-deprecating humor is the most endearing, then we must love the way in which the characters in this play switch between self-doubt and egomania, particularly as played by Bill Singleton as playwright Austin and Mike Beattie as the kleptomaniac director Frank Finger.

The performances vary in strength from adequate to very capable. Scott F. Mason is entertaining as the bitter, two-faced actor James Wicker but Judi A. Stier is somewhat too staid as the pill-popping actress Virginia Noyes. Judith A. David capably portrays first-time producer Budder while James A. Simpers underplays critic and would-be playwright Ira Drew.

Providing added comic relief are Eileen Shea as cabbie Emma Bovary and Darnell Collins as aspiring singing actor Gus Washington.

This play is entertaining and funny, especially its first act; the plot, however, becomes a bit thin towards the end as McNally nearly runs out of places to go.

While you don’t need to know who Shirley MacLaine or Charles Nelson Reilly is to enjoy this play, it certainly helps. The dialogue is a celebrity name-dropper’s delight and if you don’t know, for instance, Neil Simon’s nickname, you will when the show is over: If you don’t care, perhaps this play is not for you.

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Last Updated: March 2001
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