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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Screwball Sitcom

Theater Review

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 For its latest production Spiral Theatre has moved to its third location so far this season. And while the performance space at Bucketworks’ new location has all the emotional warmth of a warehouse or an aircraft hangar, it has much better acoustics than their old performance space in the old Mandel building. Spiral Theatre brings an endearing degree of warmth to the new space with it’s production of the 1994 Charles Busch comedy You Should Be So Lucky.

 The type of show that has been described as a “screwball comedy,” You Should Be So Lucky comes across as something like the lost pilot episode of a particularly bizarre and zany TV sitcom that never got picked-up. Director Mark Hooker stars as Christopher, a down-on-his-luck electrologist operating out of a run-down apartment with inconsistent electrical service. Christopher’s luck begins to change as he helps out a wealthy Jewish gentleman named Rosenberg (Terry Gavin). Just as Rosenberg begins to express interest in becoming Christopher’s first client in months, the electrologist’s sister, Polly, drops by to announce that she’s moving in.

 Polly (Jenna Wetzel) is a struggling actress with an overdeveloped sense of the dramatic. She has been kicked out of her lover’s apartment and is without a place to stay. In spite of the strange first meeting, Rosenberg and Christopher become friends, and it is through this friendship that Christopher meets a promising new boyfriend named Walter (Doug Griffin.) Things seem to be going well until a freak electric surge in the apartment causes Rosenberg to die while Christopher is operating on him. This prompts a visit from Rosenberg’s estranged daughter Lenore, a lawsuit and Christopher’s inevitable appearance on a talk show hosted by the cheerful Wanda Wilson.

 The ensemble’s comic delivery is seamless in places, but the cast unilaterally suffers from a lack of modulation between extremes. Wetzel’s Polly, for instance, has a perfectly affected artificial British accent, but when she returns to an American accent out of anger and frustration, the contrast isn’t quite as sharp as it needs to be to maximize the comic effect. To a certain extent, every cast member suffers from this sort of problem. Many of the finer details of Charles Busch’s script get lost here, but on the whole, this is a very fun production.

You Should Be So Lucky runs through May 3.

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