‘Bedside Manners’ at The British Players

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Will you be having your Mr. Smith in the blue room or the green room? Mind you, the blue room is awfully blue. Regardless of which room you’re sneaking off to, be sure you sneak off to The British Players’ production of Bedside Manners. An amusing farce where the audience knows exactly what’s going to happen and the hilarity of havoc ensues as the players attempt to keep the inevitable from happening; this production will have you giggling for a good two hours. Directed by Chrish Kresge, the comedy brings together two couples away for a clandestine getaway under one roof in the vein of Noel Coward only this play adds a hysterical fifth clown into the mix. A good romp for anyone seeking a bit of comic entertainment this spring.

John Allnutt (Roger), Peter Harrold (Ferris), Paul Noga (Geoff), Charlene Sloan (Helen), and Katie Brandeis (Sally). Photo by JA Simmons.
John Allnutt (Roger), Peter Harrold (Ferris), Paul Noga (Geoff), Charlene Sloan (Helen), and Katie Brandeis (Sally). Photo by JA Simmons.

A cozy retreat kept all neat and tidy off the beaten path; Set Designers Albert Coia and Mike Lewis concoct just such a place upon the stage for this performance. Discovered in the parish magazine, this quaint little getaway resort has rooms decked out according to color and Coia and Lewis do not skimp on this aspect of their design. The execution of the farce calls for a physically exhausting set and Coia and Lewis answer the call with vigor. Not only do they succeed in creating a fabulously furnished idyllically calm resort but they manage to break each of the segments, including the upstairs bedrooms, into their own functioning space allowing for maximum comic effect as the characters race up and down the stairs, in and out of the restaurant, and go creeping and dashing all through the hotel.

Lighting Designer Eddie Schwartz works to keep each scene of the play flowing succinctly in line with the next. Having each section of the set segmented apart from each other creates the illusion of moving forward in time. Schwartz’s precise lighting cues to darken one room while lighting another fulfills this illusion; only having the areas populated with active people in full light at any given time.

The play is set in 1985 and Costume Designers Joan Roseboom, Linda Mary Sloan, and Lynne Ticehurst get that power-pop look thriving in the outfits designed for the women. Sally arrives in a neon fuchsia one piece jumpsuit cinched at the waist with a black shiny vinyl belt. The arrival outfit for Helen is equally as garish in just as vibrant a color only hers contains an extremely busy pattern. The evening dresses are quickly loud but elegant and representative of an aristocratic background.

While the physical comedy of the play is excellently delivered, Director Chrish Kresge could push the tempo of the dialogue a bit to keep the witty repartee moving as quickly as the physical banter. Although the show does move quickly and feels natural there are occasions where lines should be jumped upon rather than paused and finished. This occurs mainly during the scenes where the characters are meant to be improvising to one another; although the dialogue is scripted the actors take too long to fumble through these moments and it loses its momentum and overall feeling of calamity which is what creates the inherent humor in a farce.

The five performers play off each other with a polished level of comfort and ease. The exciting and unexpected encounters with one another are met with surprise, and genuine reactions. Despite some of their slower responses, the cast delivers their dialogue clearly and the jokes, albeit delayed, do land quite solidly. Each of the performers in turn embodies a specific quality that defines their character separately from the others; creating intricate working profiles of humor in the performance.

Sally (Katie Brandeis) starts off rather savvy and smart but quickly devolves into a drunken stupor. Brandeis masters the ability to totter under the influence, wobble about and startle her speech while remaining impeccably intelligible to preserve the integrity of the text. Her drunken antics while fussing at Ferris and flirting with Roger are wildly engaging.

Helen (Charlene Sloan) is the epitome of a klutz incarnate. Bumping into everything while hiding behind her shades, Sloan’s character is an over-excited bubbly dingbat. Easily set into shrieking histrionics, Sloan manages to find the humor in her character’s upset, displaying it loudly for all to hear. Her attention to minutia; the way she nibbles in a panic on her chocolates, creates a distinctive habit for her character, making her the wackiest of the four involved in the affair.

Geoff (Paul Noga) is a meager character with a mildly damp personality. Rather than growing exasperated in situations of duress, Noga internalizes his character’s anxieties, often expressed through pitiable and woeful expressions on his face. His panicked resistance displayed when he fends off advances from Helen is uproarious. Noga’s finest moments are when he unexpectedly encounters Roger; his physical and vocal reactions quite a comic treat.

download (16)Roger (John Allnutt) starts the show as a suave and charismatic gent ready for a good evening. Allnutt perfects the withering glares in Ferris’ general direction when little bumps begin to populate the road to his good time. His over-the-top responses to crisis and calamity are the most amusing of the four individuals who are trying, albeit poorly, to have an affair for the first time. His flabbergasting interactions with Ferris in attempts to keep the story straight are hysterical; his pinched facial expressions making them that much more entertaining.

Ferris (Peter Harrold) is the comic glue of the production. The doddering old coot with perfect functioning faculties adds layers of humor to this performance with his quick quips, his overtly implied innuendo, and his overall comic presence. Watching him dash about trying to prevent catastrophe is physically exhausting, only adding to the hilarious antics occurring throughout the production. Harrold has an exceptional understanding of how the timing of his verbal delivery can make or break a joke within a moment and does so flawlessly; hitting every joke targeted at the audience straight on the head. An exceptionally versatile comic performer, Harrold is serving up a full weekend’s worth of laughs in this show.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with one intermission.

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Bedside Manners plays through April 12, 2014 through the British Players at The Kensington Town Hall— 3710 Mitchell Street in Kensington, MD. for tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.