Not Now, Darling

By - Nov 15th, 2006 02:52 pm
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By Russ Bickerstaff

With all the right treatment under the right conditions, life can be a late 60s British sex farce. One needs only gather the right adults together and get them to be a bit more fictitious than usual. No elaborate sets are needed. Costuming need not be extensive. The comedy comes naturally. With this social dynamic in place, RSVP Productions’ Artistic Director Raymond Bradford delves into an enjoyable evening of theatre as co-director and co-star in Ray Cooney and John Chapman’s 1969 hit comedy Not Now, Darling.

Bradford himself stars as a diligent, honest furrier named Arnold Crouch. Alan Stevenson co-stars as his business partner Gilbert Bodley. Crouch, being a womanizing adulterous husband with a suspicious business sense, is quite the opposite of the virtuous Crouch. Crouch finds his morals slipping in a chain of events brought about when Bodley attempts to give a young married woman the gift of a very expensive fur coat.

The chain of events is written to rush through the play in a blinding flurry. This is a comedy of escalation. With some 11 people in the cast swimming through the tiny stage at the Astor Theater, RSVP does a pretty good job of keeping things quickly enough to spark some laughs. The momentum may slip in places, but it rights itself quickly enough to shoot through a relatively entertaining evening of comedy.

The roles are all written as exaggerated comic characters and the RSVP cast seems to have a really good time performing them. Kelly Simon plays the young Janie McMichael, hopeful recipient of Crouch’s gift coat. Simon plays Janie with the surreal affectations of a grossly amplified material girl. Earl Scharnick seems suitably confused as her husband Harry, who is also in an extramarital affair with an attractive young woman named Sue (played by Anne Miller) whose husband occasionally storms through the action, played by Ken Dillon. Things, of course, get even more complicated with Bodley’s wife Maude (Marcee Sturino) coming back early from vacation to find things in disarray. Notable supporting performances around the edges include Cynthia L. Paplaczyk as Bodley & Crouch’s oddly comic secretary and the tiny, talented Marilou Davido as a young, overly-friendly employee of the business.

Rather than setting the production in a late 1960s England, Bradford has opted for a more ambiguous “Modern Metropolitan City” in the present. This spares the audience of having to hear a variety of different mid-western attempts at British accents, which makes the production all the more enjoyable. For anyone familiar with the style and pacing of dialogue in a British comedy however, it’s a bit disorienting. That ineffable use of silence, inflection and sarcasm with a hint of exaggeration seems to have been lifted from the script along with the accents. This distraction doesn’t detract enough from the comedy to be anything other than subtly confusing to those familiar with the genre.

This is by no means deep or deeply moving comedy. Closing just one week before the Christmas season hits Milwaukee theatres, (A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, A Cudahy Caroler’s Christmas etc . . .) this is one last chance to have unpretentious, unsentimental fun before the sappiness flows through local theatre with a saccharine river of sugar-coated holiday sentiment. Kelly Simon stands on a bench with her back to the audience taking off her clothes beneath a simulated fur coat as characters stand in exasperation on the stage in front of her. It’s okay to laugh at this stuff for one more week. It really, really is. VS

RSVP Productions’ Not Now Darling runs now through November 18th at the Astor Theatre. Tickets can be purchased by calling 414-272-5694. More info is available online at www.rsvptheater.com.

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