And you thought Beyonce was the Queen of Lip-Sync?
She has nothing on the cast of “The Lucky Chance, or The Alderman’s Bargain”, playing through February 23rd at The Bath House Cultural Center, courtesy of Echo Theatre. Get your laugh-in on. Echo’s production consists of a longish farce, employing lip “synchage” by all involved of many memorable ditties and lovelorn ballads of that quintessential pop hit era, the mod 60’s…Written by Western civilization’s first published-in-name female playwright and femme fatale Aphra Behn (a late 17th century Madonna mixed with equal doses of Mata Hari and Lindsay Lohan), the play celebrates youthful sexual union at the farcical expense of rich but grumpy, dirty old men who marry much younger “virgins” at peril of flagrant cuckoldry. Imagine “The Odd Couple” if written by Moliere with explicit sexuality and court intrigue. Lengthy court intrigue. Director/adapter Rene Moreno has applied skill and industry in setting the production in 1960’s England and whacking away at its five acts with sharp hedge shears. He needs to have another go at it with an industrial weed-whacker. As funny, visually and musically pleasing as this production is, my butt declared benumbed outrage during intermission after the first act. Be warned. A half hour less or so of “Chance” would lessen its considerable pleasures not a jot.
The play revolves around the pseudo-sad plight of two pairs of sworn lovers, separated by unfortunate circumstance and a crotchety pair of horny old duffs.
It’s “ye olde duffs” and “one olde crone” who own this show, hands down. Learn ye now how men bemoaned cuckoldry in 1686 as much as today…together Adrian Churchill, draped in jack-o-lantern rust and orange, and Bradley Campbell, adorned in popsicle lime green, present a nefarious “Laurel and Hardy” team of bold restorative proportion and non-stop comic wiles with exquisite timing and delivery. Churchill’s lip-synced, deadpan performance in Act II of Sinatra’s “My Way” almost stopped the show opening night and is worth the price of admission alone. Churchill sashayed on and off stage in rare form, exuding his own brand of gnarly Canuck exoticism and self-deprecating comic mastery.
Campbell’s hopeless, infantilizing lust after his young bride makes the perfect parody of an aging and feckless roué, eliciting cringe-worthy guffaws every time he swaggered onstage, lip-syncing to Tom Jones in anticipated, but doomed, consummation of THE DEED. Kateri Cale portrays entertaining, bewigged characters throughout, but her brazen, depraved seduction of comely Brandon Sterrett as his drunken barracuda of a landlady could rival the “wanton broad” comedy of Phyllis Diller or Carol Burnett any day. No actor in this ensemble gives a slacker performance. Both male leads Sterrett and Austin Tindle have the professional chops to handle the non-ending flowery verbiage with precise clarity of diction and satisfy oh so much as hunky eye candy, fully clothed or not. Martha Harms and Laurel Alons match the lads in daring distressed damsel depiction, befitting the play as written in 1686, or as played in 1968ish terms. Secondary characters show true mettle in supporting the mayhem, creating their own jests and Laugh-In moments and lip-syncing in Hullabaloo-styled choreographed mod chorus-line disarray. Resplendent, colorful costumes by Ryan Matthieu Smith tease and titillate with historical accuracy and farcical comment. Austin Tindle’s final scene paisley shirt should make anyone who recalls the 60’s era groan with bemused disgust. Oddly, the leading lads hair and sideburns reflect nothing of the 60’s styles, so carefully carried out with the women’s costuming.
Fanciful set design by Clare Floyd Devries consists of angled, stacked platforms with a sliding bed element underneath, backing up to a series of doors and window hatches upstage. A painted, oversized Union Jack splashes haphazardly across the set’s breadth in luminous hues, adding charming, off-kilter whimsy to the farce enacted. Sara Romersberger’s retro choreography and harried stage business compliments the high comic style of Rene Moreno’s direction like a white patent leather belt sets off matching loafers. Ah, the joy of intentional, creative chaos.
A word about Aphra Behn: considered a trend-setter for her time and after by many better know literary lights (Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, to name two), she was considered ‘the George Sand of the Restoration’, living ‘the Bohemian life in London in the seventeenth century as George Sand lived it in Paris in the nineteenth’. I’m more intrigued with her amazing life as a 17th century world-traveler, spy and libertine than with her merit as a playwright. Still, “The Lucky Chance” is one heckuva fun production, with performances by top regional actors that deserve rapt attention with enthusiastic ovation.
2.5 hours’ worth. Oi.
Tickets: echotheatre.org 214-904-0500 Through February 23, 2013