“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious by the son of York.” Act 1, Scene 1 – Richard III by William Shakespeare.
In the four hundred plus years since Shakespeare wrote those words, they have been spoken countless times, by great actors and those of lesser talent. Wayne Wellacre (Jed Slaughter) is one of the over the top lesser talents. He proudly emotes before actors preparing for a cash-cow holiday presentation of A Christmas Carol. Slaughter did a great job. A good actor playing a bad actor is a tough job. He carried it off nicely. (I think the last time we saw him was in Steve Martin’s play The Underpants at Tacoma Little Theatre.)
The first act was a little slow and we had trouble hearing some of the women; however, we know that will be remedied by the director. Projecting can be a problem, made worse with deliveries inherent within this play itself. Peg and I saw Inspecting Carol when it was first presented at Seattle Rep back in 1991. There the audience viewpoint was almost a side view of an audience on the left, the actors in the middle, and their stage at the right. At Lakewood Playhouse the audience is mostly at the back of the house facing the stage with business going on in front and on both sides of the stage. The play was written by Seattle Rep actors as an inside joke, a parody of the difficulties of endless productions of A Christmas Carol and the perfidiousness of a pompous actor injecting “great” concepts into a simple play. It is interesting that neither Peg nor I recall the original being anywhere near as funny as this Lakewood production.
It’s about a group of actors who have played the same Christmas Carol parts for years. Mix in serious financial difficulties, forgotten obligations, aging actors, sexual dalliances, not so special effects, well-worn props, a brand-new, unrehearsed cast member as the ghosts, and you have a holiday program spiraling down into oblivion on the wings of farce. I like farce.
Phil Hewlit (Tim Hoban) as Bob Cratchit doesn’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, but when Tiny Tim isn’t so tiny, in fact, he’s taller and heavier that his father, something has to give. As Phil Hewlit he had a short encounter with the director, Zorah Bloch (Steffanie Foster). She was drunk and definitely does not want to replay that scene. (Peg and I have known Tim since the early 1980s, professionally and as a friend. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen his one-man show as Edgar Allen Poe, but we expect to see more of them in the future.)
Jed Slaughter as Wayne Wellacre, an amateur with overwhelming delusions of grandeur, is denied an audition, but is welcomed back when Shadow Box Theatre managing director Karen Emery (Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson) and director Zorah Bloch believe him to be an inspector for the National Endowment for the Arts which could save the theatre with a serious cash infusion. They are wrong. (I would have loved to have seen Ferguson as Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice at Lakewood Playhouse.) One of the funniest scenes in Act One has Zorah plumping up her breasts in her lacy black bra so they nearly fall out of her sexy red dress; she’s attempting the seduction of Mr. Wellacre. Zorah, her breasts, and Wellacre soon disappear into the stinking robe and hood of the ghost of Christmas Past.
The costumes looked great, the sets cheesy (a good thing), and the actors gave us a wonderful evening. We particularly liked Walter E. Parsons (Mark Peterson) as the only minority actor back when this was a controversial move, cast as the multiple ghosts. One of the funniest scenes in the play has him looking confused as he just stands holding a pinata. Thank you, Stu Johnson (Costume Designer), Mel Johnson (Costume Assistant), and Alyana Stephens (Properties Master).
The husband/wife team of Jennifer York (Director) and Blake R. York (Scenic Designer) gave us a very funny evening. You need to see this play.
The play runs through May 12th – Visit the Lakewood Playhouse website for details and tickets – lakewoodplayhouse.org/