‘Wait, I can explain!’
Farcical fun at Theatre on the Ridge
Slamming doors and episodes of mis-taken identity are standard fare for any farce worth its salt, but The Ladies Man, an excellent madcap production of incredible tempo now being staged at Theatre on the Ridge in Paradise, is a two-act farce on steroids. It has so many twists, turns and door slams, it made the audience on Friday night swivel to and fro like they were watching a tennis match in order to keep up with the action.
As the play unfolded, a hard rain pelted the playhouse roof, helping to add to the coziness of the intimate venue for this, the opening production of the venerable theater company’s 37th year. And director Jerry Miller’s frenzied, laugh-out-loud, leave-your-troubles-at-the-door romp proved perfect medicine for the mid-winter blues.
The Ladies Man is an adaptation by Charles Morey of Georges Feydeau’s 1889 campy French comedy, Tailleur Pour Dames ("The Ladies’ Dressmaker"). With French accents aplenty, one voice that was particularly pertinent came courtesy of the lisp of Bassinet, a peculiar persona with a knack for showing up at the wrong time. Uttering an address of “70 Rue Sans Souci” is a comedic mouthful for anyone, but especially so when presented with a lisp and including the date, “Sunday, the sixth of September.”
The action, first set in a Parisian doctor’s office, finds the cape-wearing Dr. Hercule Molineaux, the show’s central character masterfully played by William Petree, with clearly something to hide after he allegedly “spent the night outside on a park bench in the pouring rain.” Molineaux’s explanation to his wife, Yvonne, played with class and substance by Marchia Ryborz, began a head-spinning series of far-fetched tall tales that wove through every character. And kudos to the normally unsung stage carpenter, Michael Clemens in this one, as the set’s doors endured a profound workout, especially during a second-act frenzy of action.
All eight members of the cast, which included many who were making just their first or second appearance on the Theatre on the Ridge stage, excelled in their roles. There were simply no weak links.
Richard Cross, who has a most impressive theatrical r"sum” that includes work in movies, TV and about 200 stage productions, was superb as the delightfully animated Bassinet, an odd fellow who has lost his wife, literally. As Bassinet, Cross’s mannerisms and facial expressions were as splendidly exaggerated as his garish red-and-blue striped suit. Petree was impressive as Dr. Molineaux, who talked his way out of many sticky situations. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase, “Wait, I can explain!” uttered so many times over the course of a single evening.
Ryborz gave a peach of a performance as the rightfully distrustful Yvonne, who couldn’t quite catch her husband in the act of cheating but was wise enough to assert, “Men are like spiders. The moment I leave he will be spinning his web of lies.” Teresa Hurley was properly proper as the domineering Madame Aigreville, Yvonne’s mother who some say more closely resembles Medusa than the Madame title that her social status allowed her.
Christine Goddard was devious as Suzanne, a sexy harlot with long blonde ringlets who was not afraid to profess her lustful attraction to the doctor. (Goddard also deserves an extra shout-out of praise for performing so well while being somewhat under the weather.) Eric Ricketts was, well, farcical as Gustav Aubin, a proud, sword-wielding Prussian military man who tended toward buffoonery, especially when he sipped a bit too much sleep tonic. Finally, Joel Ibanez is very good as Molineaux’s loyal valet Etienne, and Aylsia Kleimer was top-notch as Marie the maid, who makes an unexpected discovery at the play’s conclusion.
The play does not include deep, philosophical or contemplative material. Instead, heaping helpings of knee-slapping capers play out before the audience, which is left to contemplate some unusual questions. Is Gustav really a trendy dressmaker and not a Prussian military man? Is Madame Aigreville really the queen of Greenland and not a local woman of affluence? Will Bassinet ever find his lost wife? These and other important truths are revealed in the zany The Ladies Man.
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