“Running in the Red” is Slapstick Fun at FCP

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

The opening this week of Karl Tiedemann’s double entendre comedy, Running in the Red, heralds a season of change for the Flint Community Players. With the transition to a series of guest directors, the question of consistency had us wondering how well this production might stack up. We were pleasantly surprised.

Jumping in with both feet as the first guest director, Shelly Hoffman brought much to be appreciated to the Tom and Bea Nobles Performance Hall stage Friday.  Her troupe, made up of many newcomers to FCP, pulled off a rollicking version of this combination slapstick and satire script.

Set in the 1930s when radio was king, the story concerns a couple of radio comics known as Eve and Jerry (think Burns and Allen) who find themselves right on the verge of making it big. However, when Eve Williams (Lauren Kondrat) returns from Los Angeles to her upscale New York apartment, she discovers that her cousin (Justin Wetenhall) has turned Communist and donated all of her money to the Party, her servants have quit for lack of pay, and there’s a nosy reporter snooping around determined to proclaim her insolvency to the world.

Add to that the fact that Eve is not the airhead she pretends to be on the radio, but is actually a published researcher and author nearing her doctorate degree.  Kondrat does a great job of bouncing back and forth between these two personalities – being brilliant one minute and daffy the next.

As for Jerry, Ian Thomas is amazing as he moves with spirit and remarkable agility despite his moderate girth. His comic sense, sarcastic wit and timing are terrific.  But he’s not the only one vying for Eve’s attention. There’s a host of characters on hand and the fun starts when Tiedemann’s script begins to link them together. Things get even more hysterical when Eve decides she wants to quit the act to finish her degree, her fiancé (Matt Kehoe) thinks she’s an idiot, and a Columbia University agent (Christina Bradford) arrives to finalize the contract for a textbook she has written.

We loved the hokey comedy duo of purported writers played by Ted Valley and Sean MacIntyre. Replete with wide-pin-striped suits and armed with a repertoire of gags they refer to by number, they were a treat.

More characters are soon caught up in the zany developments including Philip Kautz, the insensitive entertainment reporter who allowed us to revel in his bad luck, and Gene Pincomb II as Massie, the man with Eve and Jerry’s future fame in his hand who loses his pants but never his dignity.

Two other characters were peripheral in that they opened and then closed the show, but we must mention Pam Kimber as Nellie the disgruntled maid who becomes integral to the confusion over just who is the “stalker” out to get Eve.  Also Gil Hall’s policeman could be mistaken for the Keystone variety as his desire to protect finds him pointing his gun at just about everyone.

A huge picture window plays a central role in all the fun as people and property tumble in and out of it with perfected timing.  Five different entrances allow for all sorts of wacky schticks including Jerry on a serving cart, Massie in a chair wrapped in bandages, as well as a couple times when unconscious folks were quickly stashed away.

The show is filled with clever repartee mixed with slapstick all of which is no small feat to pull off well. Timing is crucial and Hoffman’s cast has mastered it nicely.

Running in the Red continues at Flint Community Players’ Tom and Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy, Flint, MI through September 29.  For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-235-6963 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com

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