by Gerry Roe
Amana – It is the nature of farce that the story, reduced to synopsis, can become rather silly. Old Creamery’s current production of Nana’s Naughty Knickers easily fits into the silly category if we look only at the story and not at the performances of the accomplished cast or at the production as a whole. This production cannot be categorized as silly in the hands of director Sean McCall and his stellar cast. It is a theatrical experience not to be dismissed or passed over lightly and it lingers in the memory not because of its plot but because of its splendid pacing and the pleasure it evokes in its audience.
It would be silly of me to attempt to describe the plot in any detail. Set in a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan occupied by Sylvia Charles who runs a sexy lingerie business for “mature” women, thus violating the proscription in her lease against any commercial undertaking. In addition, she has never declared her business income in her tax returns. She has kept her business operation a well-guarded secret from her landlord or from anyone outside her circle of customers. Even her granddaughter, who has come to spend the summer with her before beginning law school, is unaware of her Nana’s sideline. In the classic manner of farce, things fall apart, but also in the manner of farce, by the end of the story the center holds.
Sean McCall’s bravura direction makes his love of farce clearly evident, and his cast eagerly and skillfully go along for the ride. Those of us who routinely attend Old Creamery performances find pleasure in seeing how actors familiar to us from previous performances take the opportunity to create fresh characters who are unique and ultimately delightful. This is a cast almost exclusively comprised of actors we have seen in other productions, but here they present characters newly minted and completely appropriate to this script and this production.
Credit must also be given to the set designer, Marianna Coffey, for a set that is attractive and fully functional, including several surprises dependent on revolves and other “magic” to reveal features of the apartment Sylvia needs to keep hidden. Also deserving appreciative mention is Karle Meyers for conventional costumes for each character, and amazing items of clothing Sylvia has designed for her customers. The entire production staff make strong contributions to the success of the production.
Old Creamery favorite, Marquetta Senters plays Vera, a close friend of Sylvia (Kay Francis) and together they create a memorable pair. They function as a comedy team, playing off each other like Abbott and Costello or even Laurel and Hardy. Nothing is too much for them if it will bring laughs as, indeed, their work succeeds in doing. Kay Francis is no stranger to Old Creamery audiences, having performed in a number of shows here, including several Church Basement Ladies shows as Vivian Snusted. Joining her and Marquetta Senters are other Creamery actors we have seen before. Katie Colletta, (the granddaughter, Bridget), Jim Vogt (a UPS man), and Sarah Hoch (Heather, an employee of a company with a similar name) come to this show direct from Grease in which they were equally convincing as high school seniors, class of 1959, in a school presided over by Principal Lynch (Marquetta Senters). Veteran actor David Q. Combs plays Sylvia’s outraged and outrageous landlord seeking any excuse to evict Sylvia from her apartment allowing him to triple or quadruple the rent. Combs can wring humor out of a line with his voice and his body. Tom, a rookie policeman, much taken with Bridget and believably reluctant to give her a ticket for double parking outside Sylvia’s apartment building, is well played by Kent Reynolds, an actor I had not seen before but hope to see again.
In plays dating from centuries ago, the plot was often resolved by a character called the deus ex machina who appeared at the end of the play. This device is used in Nana’s Naughty Knickers when a character earlier described as Sylvia’s best customer arrives to bring about resolution and bring the play to a speedy conclusion. Clair, the best customer, is played by Rachael Lindhart, who has both acted and directed for Old Creamery. Lindhart has a long career in theatre, evident in her confident and hilarious performance as Clair, who provides a fully satisfying denouement to the play.
This production plays through November 6. See it if you can, and be prepared to laugh.