By Lynn Geyer
The Pierce College Theatre Department may be without a theatre but it’s still alive and well and imaginative and turning out A-1 productions.
The Department curtailed by the lack of a permanent space, director Patrick Daugherty, Pierce Theatre instructor, decided to use the third floor lecture hall to present “The Lady in Question,” Charles Busch’s tribute to the Hollywood films of yesteryear.
Since there is no space in this room for a stage, much less than a set, Daugherty has turned this spoof on the great WWII propaganda films of intrigue into a quasi radio play, complete with announcer, sound effects’ operator, songs of the era and original commercials. There is a projection screen above the “backstage” concealing curtain. Photos of various set locations are shown on the screen to give the audience an on-stage experience.
Unlike a radio show, the cast members wear authentic costumes and makeup. They act with minimal blocking, concentrating on character development – and some of them have done an incredible job.
This is your typical story of an American who travels to Germany in order to ask help in extricating his actress mother from a death sentence. Here he meets an American concert pianist who is traveling with her female companion. The pianist meets a Nazi baron who immediately falls in love with her, much to the chagrin of his arrogant Arian mother. Add a mad doctor, a helpful professor and a couple of young girls (one of whom is a fledgling nymphomaniac, the other the female incarnate of Adolph Eichman) and you have the groundwork for this uncomplicated little tale.
Blake York is Professor Erik Maxwell, the American hoping to free his mother. York plays his role seriously, the way true melodrama should be done, thus making it very funny.
On the other hand, Roland Hamel who doubles in brass as Professor Mittelhoffer, the man who swears to aid Maxwell in his task and Dr. Maximiliam, that mad doctor, makes farcical characters of both his parts, thus making them very funny.
See, there is really no right or wrong way to play these parts.
Celina Cordova is pianist Gertrude Garnet and Fionna Larcom is Kitty, her companion. Both have some very nice moments with a lot of eye-rolling and mock indignation. Aubree Wilson plays Raina Aldric, the captive, soon to be free actress mother, with broad melodramatic tones.
Dixon King is the Nazi Baron Wilhelm Von Elsner. His appearance and sinister acting would put Conrade Viet to shame. Sharon Russell is his a little too subdued mother, Augusta.
Andrew Richards is Karel Fraiser, a Nazi storm trooper; Kyle Trauba is Hugo Hoffmann, a local underground agent, Samuel Barrett is the radio station announcer. All overact nicely adding humor to the already humor-laden script.
Ashley Jackson joins Larcom and Hamel with those very listenable songs of the Big Band era for pre-show and during intermission. Their voices are worthy of the crooners and songbirds of the times.
Needless to say, I’ve saved the best for last. It is hard to say which of the two budding thespians who play the young girls is the better actor but there is little doubt that they steal the show.
Jo’Nell Hohn is Lotte. She is maniacally funny as our sadistic, pubescent Hitler bent on eliminating anyone who stands against her Fuehrer.
Tricia Hill is Heidi Mittelhoffer. Not only does she maintain a brilliant character, but her physical actions are constant and hilarious.
“The Lady in Question” continues at Pierce College Theatre on the Fort Steilacoom Campus at 9401 Farwest Drive through Saturday, February 23 at 7 p.m. To make reservations, call the box office at (253) 964-6710.
This is a very funny show. The only sad part is that it will only play through February 23. Try to make the time to see “The Lady in Question” and you’ll find the answer to why you shouldn’t miss it.