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Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

Heart and Humor in APT's 'Admirable' Production

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Fans of Peter Pan well know author James M. Barrie's ability to look at life's challenges through the lens of the heart, arriving at solutions both childlike in their simplicity and complex in their effect. Barrie takes the same lens to the English class system in The Admirable Crichton, which opened American Players Theatre's August season Saturday.

The household of English peer Lord Loam (Mark Goetzinger) is surfeit with servants, none more formidable than the butler Crichton (James Ridge). Born into his position, Crichton cringes at his lordship's attempts to foster equality among classes, counseling family members to embrace the proper disdain for those who live downstairs.

The tables turn when the household is marooned on a tropical island and Crichton's skills and practicality force him into a leadership role. “Whatever is natural is right,” Crichton counsels, a nod that context, not capabilities, determines nature's course. The expected role reversals occur and even the stiffest upper lips curl into smiles until conditions change again.

Director Kenneth Albers brings both warmth and a wink to his stylized production, which embraces equal doses of heart and humor. Ridge is deliciously officious at the head of the cast, which includes brilliant turns by APT veterans Colleen Madden as the lower-class scullion Tweeny and Sarah Day as the tart-tongued Lady Brocklehurst. Barrie's heartfelt point is well explored in this admirable production.

American Players Theatre's The Admirable Crichton continues through Oct. 6. For ticket reservations, call 608-588-2361.