Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Chr

By - Dec 4th, 2007 02:52 pm
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By Jill Gilmer

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From the moment you are greeted by the white-haired ladies at the entrance to the playhouse, it’s apparent that this will be no ordinary night at the theatre: this is the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society. This very amateur acting troupe attempts to perform Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with comic results, ranging from falling sets to missed lines to an apparent no-show by the actress who plays Scrooge, forcing the company’s director to try to solicit a replacement from the audience at the start of the play.

Farndale Avenue is a series of 11 plays-within-plays produced by the society ladies’ drama guild, including their attempts to perform Macbeth, a murder mystery and a French farce. Theatre-goers expecting A Christmas Carol may be disappointed. The seasonal favorite is really just a backdrop to showcase a host of theatrical mishaps and odd divergences from the original script. At the end of the play, the cast abandons the story altogether and leads the audience in a game of charades.

The clever script by David McGillvray and Walter Zerlin Jr. is packed with classic British humor, and the challenge for any American theatre company is to capture the play’s wit without degenerating into silliness. Unfortunately, the company has only limited success in this endeavor. The audience laughed throughout the show but at a level far more restrained than might be expected. In many scenes, the ensemble appears to be trying too hard. This production misses the sharp wit of the parody, which requires a much higher degree of subtlety in both its acting and its direction.

Bright spots include an excellent performance by Beverly Sargent, whose character inches across the stage wearing a neck brace she acquired in a supermarket accident. Elizabeth Keefe brings a sweet innocence and natural humor to her characters, especially her portrayal of a snowman in the opening scene. Matthew Patten, the only male member of the women’s drama guild, plays the role of a clueless cast member with just the right level of happy-go-lucky confusion.

Farndale Avenue continues through December 31 at the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove. For tickets or more information, contact the box office at (262) 782-4430 or visit www.sunsetplayhouse.com.

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