Carpenter Square is presenting “Mrs. Mannerly” through March 16, 2013 directed by Kenneth Benton. There is no doubt that Benton cast this play with the ‘best of the best’ among Oklahoma City’s talented pool of actors. Cast members are Linda McDonald as Helen Anderson Kirk, known to students and former students as ‘Mrs. Mannerly’ with affection. Playing her student, Jeffrey, as well as cameo appearances as all the other students and some parents is Kaleb Bruza.
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher is clearly using his own life as the basis for this cute comedy and manages to objectively recall those humorous qualities that allow one to grow from an awkward young boy to a successful playwright. “Mrs. Mannerly” is the story of a woman, returning to her home town having spent about 30 years teaching etiquette to those needing extracurricular instructions. She is now teaching children and grandchildren of her original students. This story tells of a special relationship that develops between Mrs. Mannerly and one of her most important and unusual students, Jeffrey. Jeffrey is a bright young man, unable to compete with other students in academic and athletic areas and determined to succeed in this class.
The script is consistently amusing with moments of hilarity. McDonald and Bruza do not miss a single opportunity to capture each of the author’s moments. Thanks to Director Benton the reactions are just as pronounced and amusing as the delivery and that makes “Mrs. Mannerly” work beautifully.
When times are tough and spring seems such a long way off a light-hearted look at life is necessary. “Mrs. Mannerly” does this with great sensitivity, as the audience learns that good manners are still important, and the basic of rules in etiquette may seem arbitrary and silly but they form a foundation for people to understand what they should do in any given situation. The overall flow of “Mrs. Mannerly” leaves the audience with the understanding that this instructor’s mission is important, even as we are amused by some of the more ridiculous strictures in etiquette. Comedy is stronger the closer to the reality reflected.
Benton, along with James Polk Wilson has designed a perfect yet minimalist set. The set creates an excellent venue for Benton to ‘block’ in characters that are invisible. Bruza’s fluid body movement enables him to step into each different character as he steps into their allotted space with ease and great creativity. McDonald, certainly one of Oklahoma’s most talented actresses and multi-talented artists has developed the perfect mix of public propriety and private impropriety. McDonald is delightful and alongside Bruza they make a great pair with great timing.
This is a good play for families, specifically multi-generational, as we are reminded of the special relationships that can develop between those at the beginning of their lives and choices and those who are facing the end of their choices with dignity and poise.
This production is also graced with lobby art by Marilyn Artus. Her collage style of art is fascinating as well as beautiful and combines the mix of media with soft but profound statements. Artus, a co-founder of The Girlie Show, a 2-day all female art/craft show known here in Oklahoma City, uses her vast artistic experience to sew and create silhouette pieces that capture the imagination.
800 W. Main, Oklahoma City is the place to be at 8:00PM Saturday and Sunday nights through March 16, 2013. That is the newest address for Carpenter Square Theatre. Their space is developing rapidly and is becoming a very delightful theatre. To contact them online visit www.carpentersquare.com or call 405-232-6500.