Reviewed by Jon R. Coggins
Clio Cast and Crew (Theatre 57) opened their 2018/19 season on this cool and quite autumnal evening with what is billed as an American farce by Michael Parker – Who’s in Bed with the Butler?
A decent sized crowd saw a very busy – but aesthetically pleasing set, with two levels and I think six (!) entrances/exits – mostly doors – which played an important role in this show’s comedy. Director William Kircher used every bit of the set and the doors effectively – keeping the show and the pace moving. The design and decoration deserve mention. The set had clean lines and the curtains and legs that usually befuddled the theatre were gone with a nice trim proscenium in place.
Basically the show’s premise is time tested and familiar: a rich guy dies and the lone heir comes to claim her inheritance only to find it has been absconded with. Throw in a libidinous butler, three hot ex-girlfriends of the rich man, a deaf maid, an accident prone private investigator, a shady lawyer, an out of work actress and a rat to round things out.
As the butler in the title, Clifton – Brett Beach was up to the challenge. At times befuddled, unnerved, excited and perplexed – Beach handled all with ease and, though not what he expected, still ended up with the prize. Two things bothered me: Beach’s Moe Howard haircut (I hope this was a design choice and not his real hairstyle) had me staring at his head. Also, Beach had the propensity of coming way down stage center to deliver his lines. I thought perhaps he was going to break the fourth wall – a staple in many comedies – but that was not the case. Keep your light for sure but find your scene partners.
Clio veteran Pam Beauchamp played the out of work actor hired by Clifton to help him deal with the heir. She was at times befuddled, feisty, helpful, ingenious and jealous. Beauchamp handled the role well though there was a bit of line trouble and energy let down in the second (longish) act. Her “solution” to Clifton’s dilemma was a show stopper.
The daughter Constance, played by Karen Fenech, was uptight, prudish and eager to lay claim to her inheritance. Fenech played the role well but had some volume problems and at times energy problems. She really came to life in the last scene.
Her lawyer Roy Vance, played by Carl Frost, was her male equal. He had a stake in the outcome and strove to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Frost’s Carl was also bit by the volume bug and as a duo with Fenech’s Constance – lacked energy in a few spots, especially in the second act. He delivered the first belly laugh with the line calling the missing fancy yacht the “BIG O”. Nuff said.
Injecting most of the laughs and energy spikes was the Private Investigator – William Davis Jr., played wonderfully by Preston Sannicolas. His character was all bumbling and pratfalls. Especially intriguing was his incredible use of verbal malaprops. It is difficult enough to memorize real words but linguistically mischewing every word is a true challenge. Sannicolas was up to the test.
Michelle Hayes, a beautiful, busty, energetic foe to the heir’s plans, plays all three of the deceased’s ex-girlfriends lured to the estate by the lawyer to ostensibly receive their promised inheritances. Hayes played an English red headed beauty, a French ooh la la lovely and a gorgeous, slightly ditsy California girl. All the characters were different and well developed. Hayes brought energy and comedy to the roles. Her frantic costume changes must have been an incredible feat in and of itself.
Rounding out the cast was Agnes, a stereotypical deaf maid. She brought laughs and the aforementioned Rat that gave the cast the willies! Played nicely by Pat Walker, Agnes was up to the challenge.
A mention must be given – nay a footnote if you will – to Allie Curtis who made several “special appearances”. She was well armed and handily managed the role.
The show started a little slow, as many shows do, getting through the exposition. It picked up steam and rolled through the first act. Again the energy/tempo was a bit off in the second act. I suspect opening night jitters and a longish second act. Director Kircher should be pleased as the cast and crew presented an enjoyable, laugh filled evening of entertainment. Watch for the best line in the show – “He smells like a Spanish pimp” in the second act.
Who’s in Bed with the Butler? continues this weekend and next (September 28th through October 4th) at Clio Cast and Crew’s Theatre 57. Vienna Road, Clio Michigan. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com Go. Laugh. Have a great evening.