‘Suite Surrender’ at Prince George’s Little Theatre

Prince George’s Little Theatre‘s Suite Surrender is full of sweet surprises. Written by Michael McKeever, directed by John Degnan, and produced by Malia Murray, it is a laugh-fest from beginning to end.

Jenn Robinson (Dora) and James McDaniel (Dunlap). Photo by Roy Peterson.
Jenn Robinson (Dora) and James McDaniel (Dunlap). Photo by Roy Peterson.

The year is 1942, the location is the Palm Beach Royale Hotel, and the two biggest starlets of Hollywood are vying for the same suite. From mistaken identities to perfectly timed entrances and exits, this comedy embodies all that defines a farce and more.

The newly decorated suite is reserved for Claudia McFadden (Pamela Northrup), a famous American singer. She’s in town to give a benefit performance for the USO, organized by Palm Beach socialite, Mrs. Everett P. Osgood (Bernadette Arvidson). Northup and Arvidson are a good pairing and complete opposites. The Claudia McFadden character is a tall, Romanesque woman with a bawdy personality, whereas Mrs. Osgood is this short, spunky woman who manages to show up at the most inopportune times. She takes liberty to burst in and join in a rehearsal that has Claudia McFadden fuming and Mrs. Osgood gushing.

Along comes Claudia McFadden’s rival, Athena Sinclair (Karen Kellner), who is also there to perform in the same USO show and has mistakenly landed in the same Presidential suite. Kellner brings out a sophisticated perkiness in the Sinclair character as she eloquently insults McFadden. Cleverly, the separate bedrooms on the opposite sides of the suite, keeps these two dueling divas apart. But that is just the beginning of the laughter as they miss each other by split-second timing.

Paul Berry (Pippet), Pam Northrup (Claudia), and Bernadette Arvidson (Mrs. Osgood). Photo by Roy Peterson.
Paul Berry (Pippet), Pam Northrup (Claudia), and Bernadette Arvidson (Mrs. Osgood). Photo by Roy Peterson.

The clever stage direction has General Manager Bernard Dunlap (James McDaniel) and gossip columnist Dora Del Rio (Jenn Robinson) just trying to do their jobs. But Robinson gets clobbered by a few doors and pillows, knocked unconscious, and stuffed into a closet, which makes her quite an entertaining character. Robinson must also be in great shape considering the physical demands of her role to pull off the slap-slick without really getting slap. McDaniel on the other hand is just brilliant at maintaining the seriousness of his character. How he manages to not laugh at his fellow thespians is an art in itself.

Adding to the mix are two bumbling bellhops, Francis (Alex Hyder) and Otis (Nick Sticinski) who are adorable hound dogs. They both demonstrate quick-witted with fast lines and skewed faces as they are consistently ordered the same repeated tasks. The two try their best to please while being confused by the mania of the situation.

Then there are McFadden’s secretary Pippet (Paul Berry) who is on the brink of exploding while Sinclair’s secretary, Murphy (Lea Scherinir) is stealing kissed with Francis. Both manage to keep their characters intact as well as their employers even though they are overworked and ill-treated. Ms. McFadden’s assistant Mr. Pippet has the added embarrassment of also having to care for the star’s “dog,” Mr. Boodles.

Costume Designer Ashley Adams Amidon had the ladies dressed in fancy fashion. Donning two lovely turquoise dresses, Kellner takes Athena from a coiffed character to a dazzling diva. Her travel dress reflects that of the era with its form fitting bodice and poufy skirt. Her silver stilettos are a nice accent. Athena’s performance gown is soft chiffon sprinkled with rhinestones. The gown for Claudia McFadden is a shimmering taupe satin with lace accents, complementing her shapely figure. Mrs. Osgood’s gown is a brilliant salmon color that is accentuated with diamonds and pearls. Murphy’s dress is a form fitting in a deep beige color whereas Dora Del Rio’s dress is a little more flowing, allowing her to perform her stunts with little restriction.

The set designed by Keith Brown was nice but not as elegant as expected. Perhaps it is due to budget constraints but the very bright salmon pink walls do not reflect that of a “million dollar renovation” especially in Florida circa 1940. However, the grand piano was a magnificent piece that allowed some of the actors to show their talents as they tinkled the ivories.

James McDaniel (Dunlap) and Lea Scherini (Murphy). Photo by Roy Peterson.
James McDaniel (Dunlap) and Lea Scherini (Murphy). Photo by Roy Peterson.

While the actors are in constant movement on the stage with their remarkable timing, there could have been more stage direction downstage, moving them beyond the furniture placement and closer to the audience.

Suite Surrender is not weighty and does not require deep analysis even though the plotline moves fast with a lot of twists. What it is, is good light-hearted comedy that allows one to escape for a while and really enjoy the show. It is well-casted from the leads to the supporting roles. And even though many of the characters personalities are opposing, the cast works well together and greatly complement each other’s craft. It is really entertaining.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

PGLT Suite S. Banner

Suite Surrender plays through May 16, 2015 at Prince George’s Little Theatre performing at The Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7458, or purchase tickets online.

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS8.gif

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Danielle Angeline
Danielle Angeline was bit by the theater bug when she took a set design class in college. Her instructor reminded her of George Michael (Got to Have Faith). She then decided to major in technical theater and design at Towson State University. After graduating, this led her to work at Universal Studios Florida and the Carnival Cruise Lines as a stage manager, group coordinator and arcade manager. Returning home to Maryland, her career transitioned from CAD work to a technical writer/trainer for the past 15 years. During that time, Danielle volunteered as an Information Specialist with the Smithsonian. Museum assignments included Natural History, Portrait Gallery, and the Castle. She is now pursuing her theatre/arts career again as a writer and dedicating herself to her greatest passions: theatre, writing, family & friends, painting, tasty & innovative cuisine and her cats: Cheyanne and Sierra.