Jewel Box Theatre opens “Black Comedy” a one act play by Peter Shaffer. Richard Lemin, Director, does an excellent job with the typically dry and somehow dark British humor “Black Comedy” brings to the stage. Technically Lemin practices a bit of nepotism in this show as he uses son Jordan Lemin for lights and sound and son Alex Lemin for properties. Lighting the show is certainly interesting and requires a steady and firmly accurate response to the actor’s requirements and Lemin handles this difficult task with assurance and skill.
The play takes place in the apartment of a young struggling artist Brindsley Miller as he attempts to put his best sculpture on display for an important and wealthy collector. As this takes place during a blackout he has a few problems to overcome and his solutions create the comedy. They are also solutions that seem destined to fail. Because of this set-up, it is crucial that the audience be aware that the action of the play begins in the dark; therefore it is important to pay close attention during the initial phase of the performance.
Dalton Thomas has the lead role of Brindsley Miller and his physicality and characterization for the role is outstanding. His British accent is subdued yet quite evocative of the British voice. Also Thomas has excellent timing and this brings a great deal of excitement to the piece.
In the role of Carol Melkett is Heidi Sue Wallace. Wallace also exhibits great timing and physicality in the portrayal of a young English lady. An apt example of Shaw’s observation that America and England are two countries ‘separated by a common language’ is evident in Wallace’s performance as unfortunately her understanding of the British speech pattern is undeveloped and her reading of the lines is halting and uncertain.
The role of Colonel Melkett is beautifully handled by Kingsley Adams. Adams gives Melkett the perfect pompous assitude and this performance is hysterical. Taylor Harris as Miller’s friend and neighbor Harold Gorringe is also a delightful complement to the frenetic performance of Thomas. Harris exhibits great skill in delivering a performance which could easily become so ridiculous that the humor is lost. He has honed his craft to a fine edge and that edge is consistently sharp.
As the action progresses, Brindsley Miller’s former girlfriend and true love, Clea, has the horrendous timing to show up right at the worst possible moment. The actress who portrays Clea must herself have wonderful timing to pull off the role and Rachael Messer certainly has that! Messer is another fine actress Oklahoma City audiences should watch for as she has a delightful presence and good chemistry with all of her fellow actors.
The gentlemen with the German accent Schuppanzigh is played by James Gordon. The accent is thick, yet perfectly understandable. The expressions are hysterical and this role must certainly be a favorite of Gordon’s as his performance is exquisitely funny.
Another bit of nepotism comes from Lemin in casting his partner and theatre and life, Miss Deborah Franklin as Miss Furnival. Her performance is thrilling and outstanding. This actress can entertain an audience beautifully while passed out under a blanket! Richard Lemin is not only a fine director, he has a very talented family and a little nepotism can be a good thing.
The cameo role of Georg Bamberger is handled by the incomparable John Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson can take a small role and make it memorable as he himself is larger than life and he always will be.
“Black Comedy” shows through February 12, 2012. The final weekend of the show may be ideal as Wallace becomes more comfortable with British phraseology bringing the level of performance to an overall excellent status for anyone who appreciates British comedy.
For ticket information on “Black Comedy” please call 405-521-1786 or visit jewelboxtheatre.org. The Jewel Box Theatre is located in the annex of the First Christian Church at the corner of 36th and Walker in Oklahoma City. The address is 3700 N. Walker Avenue. Please contact the box office by phone Tuesday through Saturday afternoon only.