Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010

Windfall's The President: Comedy Under Pressure

Windfall Theatre opens with a fast-paced office comedy.

By Russ Bickerstaff
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In the post-modern world, things can change in very profound ways in very little time. As commonplace as no-wait, instant results culture has become, society still seems a bit fascinated by it. Quick and drastic changes are a staple of reality television. People keep buying devices that may have no practical application aside from allow us to marvel at how much more efficient it is than the device we bought just last year. It is precisely this fascination that The President explores. Adapted from an early 20th century play by Fernec Molnar, Canadian playwright Morwyn Brebner believably portrays a very complete and dramatic makeover that is detailed enough to seem realistic and bewildering enough to be funny and entertaining. Directed by Carol Zippel, Windfall Theatre’s production is a short, fast-paced comedy that is comically absurd while being grounded solidly enough in reality that it seems oddly plausible. Adapted for contemporary tastes, the comedy is set in an early 20th century period when one man could have conceivably had enough influence to completely change a man’s identity in one hour.

David Flores plays the title role—a bank president who is paid a visit by the daughter of a man he has important business with. The daughter, (played by Anne Miller) has married a socialist cabbie (Matt Zembrowski.) In order to keep a rather important bit of business from being derailed, the president must transform a simple socialist cabbie into a high-powered executive—something of a challenge as the girl’s parents will be arriving in about an hour.

The play requires Flores to be in the center of a bewildering amount of action for the majority of the play. There is not intermission. The action plays-out in real time. Flores is remarkably deft in the role. The character comes across a bit like P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves—a man with an impeccable ability to efficiently solve problems as they arise. The smooth confidence comes quite naturally to Flores—so much so that it’s easy to lose track of the dozen or so other characters moving about the stage very, very fast in the interest of aiding him. Flores’ precision and perspicacity in the role take the center of the stage so completely that it can be easy to overlook the contributions of the rest of the cast.

Director Carol Zippel has done a really good job of layering a tense, irresistible flurry of action around Flores. The process of leading the cabbie into a business suit and a whole new kind of life involves a tailor, a doctor, a few secretaries, a menswear salesman and more. Zippel and company keep things moving briskly without feeling rushed or compromising the sense of stress and intensity at the impending one hour deadline. A show as entertaining as this running as quickly as it does would normally leave one feeling like the show was a bit short. The pre-established hone-hour deadline gives the action a solid structure to build from. The end fills out a comic equation that ends exactly when it should an not a moment too soon (or too late.) This is a very satisfying trip to the theatre.  

Windfall Theatre’s production of The President runs through October 8th at Village Church Arts on 130 East Juneau Avenue. 

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