Sunday, February 13, 2011

Theater Set, um, SHOW Review

Dallas Theater Center's Arsenic and Old Lace.  Lots of fun - exceedingly well done screwball comedy.

For a production advertised as a duo-diva show, it was amazingly ensemble - talented actors throughout giving very good characterizations.  Equally surprising was the fresh funniness of the material.  One critic pointed out that a character who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt and shouts "Charge!" each time he mounts the stairs has no right to be funny anymore...  but he was.  Particular standouts were Tovah Feldshuh as the dottier of the old-maid sisters, who was charming and fey, and Lee Trull as the saner nephew, who handled his dialogue (alternating between Manhattan sophisticate and gob-smacked relative) with panache.  And the physical comedy!

The other star of the show was the set.  At the top of the show the audience saw a huge Victorian house set in a cemetery with, in front, a model of itself.  That model made clear the doll house quality of the set - that this was all a extra quaint, extra charming, rather-less-than-literal reality.  (Plus a funny bit I won't reveal.)  Perfect for the show.  As the action started, the set turned to reveal its interior... just like a doll house.  Perfect.

As an architect, I did have a few little shudders of, "that detail, that detail's not quite..." purely involuntary architectural twitches and I'm taking pills for it.  (Pills and injections.)  No.  The occasional exaggerations of the set's architecture added to the cock-eyed, screwball feel of the show.  Colors and patterns - mostly reds and roses - were sensitively chosen... and when the rose floral dinner plates came out I sighed in pure satisfaction.  I will make the slightest possible quibble about set dressing of upstage bookcases, which (okay I grant the butterfly specimens: Roosevelt = naturalist, yup) still suggested the random decoration of a Friday's restaurant, but that's microscopic against the overall wonderfulness, the wonderosity! of the set.  Loved it.

Loved the whole show.  Left humming the scenery.

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