DORSET — After a year and a half in the shadows of a global pandemic, the Dorset Players have come roaring back for a full season, kicking it off with one of the most ridiculous farces out there today, John Chapman’s “Kindly Leave The Stage,” directed by Richard Maiori.
It’s a downright crazy, improbable story with a huge cast, and there are so many moving pieces that an extensive plot summary is in order:
Theater actors Madge (Elizabeth Hazleton), and Charles (Tom Martins) sit at a dinner table on set. But things quickly go awry when Madge’s husband Rupert (Joseph R. Mozer) and Sarah (Virginia May) enter the mix.
There seems to have been some extramarital activity in the dressing rooms between the matinee and the evening performances, and now, at this evening show, Rupert is unable to stay calm, having to share a stage with an actor who has been having an affair with his wife. He veers off script: attempts to continue with the play as published are futile.
Enter a whole cast of additional characters: Edward (Andy Avery), a veteran of the stage and quite intoxicated, thinks he can salvage the original play. Sarah’s mother, Mrs. Cullen (Lynn Marcus), isn’t thrilled with Rupert’s repeated insults.
As if there wasn’t enough mayhem on stage, we also see Angela (Cheryl Gushee), the script prompter, who cannot bring the curtain down prematurely because all the stagehands are in a nearby pub. To top it off, the Nurse (Caren McVicker), the theater’s first responder, answers a call for a doctor but finds herself asked to remain on stage anyway.
To this end, the Players outdid themselves. And this is where during a farce of this size, it’s almost criminal to single out any actor as superlative. But the following caricature traits were firmly on display opening night:
Martin’s timing of vacuous, helpless stares. Hazleton’s sassy posturing and physical presence. May’s pouty, spoiled stomping about. Mozer’s overall near-villain unlikability. Marcus’ huffy, chin-up moral indignation feigning. Gushee’s scatterbrained, mousy scampering in both movement and speech. And finally, McVicker’s overall out-of-place bright-eyed cheerfulness.
Hats off to that entire cast: There is so much timing and delivery that goes into any farce, but in one with eight players it requires a constant need to focus, and also considerable discipline to not be suckered in to the ridiculousness on their own stage, for real. Bravo!
The show ran at an hour and 50 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission. The Players’ production excellence showed that they were rarin’ to get back on stage after such a long hiatus.
Errol Hill’s set design, along with an entire construction crew, should be the envy of professional stages everywhere. Costumes by Suzi Dorgeloh were perfectly suited to early 1960s London, and her stage management’s acumen was on display, start to finish. Lights by Angelina Adams and sound by Peter Witter nicely complemented the pandemonium. Mary Jo Greco, Mona Wightman and Angie Merwin all threw their vital labor in for the cause.
Producer Lynne Worth ran the tightest vaccinated-only audience management gauntlet I have witnessed this season.
One small production observation: There are some angles from house right where Angela starts to be obscured from view. If there is any way to gain a few inches of space for her prompt table to be seen from those tight angles, I implore the Players to find it because that character is a blur of movement and silent expression which lends such funny context to the entire disaster on stage.
But let’s not get too caught up in any of that. To be clear: this is a farce. It is meant to be utterly ridiculous, and the Players deliver in spades.
Make the call to the Dorset Players, book your tickets, dust off your vaccination card because you will be required to have it on you — and then make the drive to Dorset because this play’s laughter is exactly the type of pandemic antidote all of can use.
The Dorset Players present “Kindly Leave The Stage,” by John Chapman, directed by Richard Maiori and produced by Lynne Worth, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Dorset Playhouse, 104 Cheney Road, in Dorset. Socially distanced pod/assigned seating, masks, and proof of full vaccination required. For tickets and information, visit dorsetplayers.org, or call 802-867-5770.