Peggy Sue Dunigan

“The President” impressively opens Windfall’s 18th season

By - Sep 29th, 2010 04:00 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

Comedy in the dramatic arts,and especially in farce, opens the theater doors so the audience might smile at their own foibles. This is especially true when there’s a reason to cry behind the scenes at the painful truths confronting them on stage. Windfall Theatre reveals this exciting contrast in their season opener, The President.

Written in 1936 by Hungary’s Fernac Molnar, The President was recently revamped by Canada’s Morwyn Brebner for the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The new production premiered at the 2008 Ontario Theater Festival, set in 1961 Manhattan. Even “modernized,” the setting is inconsequential because the themes are timeless.

The cast of Windfall Theatre’s “The President”

Molnar’s script portrays a highly powerful bank president, Mr. Norrison, who discovers his wealthy ward, Lydia, has secretly married without her parents’knowledge. His own negligent attention to her welfare create several uncomfortable situations, and he will do anything, for any amount of money, to remedy each one. When Lydia and her husband, Tony Foot, a taxi driver, refuse to divorce, Norrison alters the young couple’s lives by serving his own interests first.

Norrison’s character gains an edgy believability as actor David Flores commands center stage with his smooth-talking, take-charge executive style. Flores’ professional, fast-paced delivery and confidence on stage comically embody a personality the cast can completely revolve around, a necessity for the performance to succeed.  Complementing Flores with her playful sophistication is Anne Miller’s Lydia, who smoothly persuades her husband, Matt Zembrowski’s Tony Foot, to completely abdicate his previous life.

A host of other characters enter and exit on Norrison’s whims. Board members, merchants and secretaries who aid Norrison in the couple’s fairytale transformation do so with devotion to his devious plans, unaware what they might actually be accomplishing. Two notables participating in this entourage are Dave Clark Bauman in three cameos and Howard Goldstein playing Bartleby.

The intimate Village Church Arts space serves the production well, and allows the audience to connect to the performance and characters under Carol ZIppel’s capable direction. In contemporary culture where public relations personnel often market careers and events to create celebrity status quickly, The President resonates with a clever realism. Society rewards people who will do anything to become famous, powerful or rich, or, even in smaller ways, further their own interests at a destructive cost to anyone in their path.

Even though this play presents a corporate executive in the production, it requires very little effort to reflect on high-ranking political officials. Who and what are individuals in society becoming when the falsified is applauded over the truth?  Who is able to tell the difference? Thoroughly enjoy Windfall’s Milwaukee premiere of The President, a production that provokes an introspective undercurrent beneath a generous layer of hearty laughter.

Windfall Theatre presents The President at Village Church Arts though October 8. Reservations and ticket availability: 414-332-3963.

Categories: Theater

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *