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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Money for the Dogs?

‘Lucky Stiff’s’ slapstick at Sunset Playhouse

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Put together a down-on-his-luck shoe salesman and a $6 million inheritance from an unknown uncle with very specific instructions in his will, and you have the makings of a screwball comedy. Add strong casting, solid direction and clever tunes and you have the production of Lucky Stiff playing at Sunset Playhouse.

Harry Witherspoon inherits the fortune from his dead uncle with one condition: he must take the relative’s corpse in a wheelchair on a trip to Monte Carlo and follow the instructions exactly or the fortune gets forfeited to the dogs—literally, i.e. to the Universal Dogs Home of Brooklyn.

Among the assorted characters are the tough-talking casino owner’s wife who steals the money, her hapless dentist brother pulled along into the caper and the dogged (bad pun intended) employee tracking Harry’s every move since any slip up means a fortune for the canines in question.

If it all sounds silly and slapstick, it is. And newly installed Sunset Playhouse Executive Director Diana Alioto, who also directs this show, makes the most of the script and cast in this madcap farce.

The strength of the book and music (by well-known Ragtime collaborators Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty) translate well to the stage. And the 10-member ensemble handles their tough chores quite well in terms of acting, singing and looking the parts. In particular, Zach McLain’s buffoonish, yet sweet Harry plays well off the zealous dog-loving Annabel (a well-cast Magdelyn Monahan) in the funny “Dogs Vs. You” and the poignant “Nice.” Samantha Paige is all high energy—vocally and otherwise—as the gun-totin’ New Joisey girl Rita, a perfect counterpart to her befuddled, straight-laced dentist brother Vinnie (hilariously portrayed by Ryan H. Nelson). And kudos to the “lucky stiff” himself, Matthew J. Patten, who held remarkably still throughout as the corpse, yet performed all the right choreographed moves.

In a time when we can all use a few extra laughs, Lucky Stiff rolls the dice and comes up a winner.

Lucky Stiff runs through May 12 at Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road. For ticket reservations, call 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplayhouse.com.