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Taking a Chance on Love

a Romantic Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by C. Robert Jones

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 2758

SHOWING : May 02, 2008 - June 01, 2008

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Kudzu Playhouse is proud to present the Georgia premiere of an exciting new comedy from the pen of acclaimed South Carolina playwrite C. Robert Jones! This wonderfully funny story features an eccentric cast of characters including handsome young Ned, his older French fiancée, her French ex-husband and her passionately Parisian daughter, Ned's twice-divorced newspaper magnate father, his two ex-wives (the one that got away, and the one that won't go away), and the family's foundation, Ned's grandmother. There are many hilarious surprises when Paris meets Charleston (and May meets December) in this warm and funny tale of love, family loyalty and new beginnings. This delightful and sophisticated romantic comedy epitomizes the phrase “turnabout’s fair play!”


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Wally Hinds
Madeleine Moret Abby Avery
Solange Moret Laura Dietrich
Edgar Rutledge Rial Ellsworth
Roxana Rutledge Gomez Debra Field
Adele Clifton Rutledge Heyward amanda libbey
Ned Rutledge Neil Matchan
Margaret Rutledge Ann Rauschl
Christille "Kiki" Moret Mike Stubbs
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REVIEWS

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Making us Care
by Dedalus
Friday, June 13, 2008
3.5
From the "Better Late than Never" files, I found this hidden away. many apologies for the delay in getting it to you ...

C. Robert Jones’ “Taking a Chance on Love” is a middling to charming play that was given a middling to charming production at Rozwell’s Kudzu Playhouse. Good performances, a solid set, a witty and charming script (once that awkward first scene is over) combined to make me care about these characters. But it was almost buffaloed by some by-the-numbers (if that) direction and a lighting scheme that did not even meet the minimum standard of keeping light where it is needed.

Pity poor Edgar Rutledge! Just as a conglomerate wants to buy his Charleston SC Newspaper, his two ex-wives descend on the Kiawah Island home he shares with his mother. The occasion is the wedding of his son, Ned. Toss in a bride more than 15 years older than the groom, her ex-husband (who has designs on Edgar’s mother), and the bride’s daughter (a randy free spirit with her eye on Edgar), and you have the makings for a solid Community Theatre script with ample opportunity for sharp characterizations, solid dialect work, and emotional surprise.

The opening is a bit of a problem. It is a poorly constructed scene in which Edgar’s mother, Margaret (Ann Rauschl), discuss the upcoming wedding with ex-wife # 2, Adele (Amanda Libbey). That it is never clear who these women are or what their relationship is really the only weakness in a script that soon after dives into the Southern version of a British Drawing-Room comedy. Stiff-upper-lip has nothing on down-home drawl when it comes to hiding what you really feel and never letting your anger show!

Rial Ellsworth dove into the role of Edgar with a relish that charmed with its innocence. He struggles to keep his two ex-wives apart, struggles with his lingering feelings for his 2nd ex Adele (who should have been his first), struggles with the brazen overtures by young Solange Moret (Laura Dietrich), struggles with a soon-to-be daughter-in-law old enough to be his younger sister, struggles with the decision to divest himself of the family paper that has enriched his life at the same time it estranged his wives and son. That he achieved all this struggling without breaking into a sweat is a testament to his control of the character.**

If the others had accents that sometimes wandered into no-one’s-tongue, that can be forgiven. If Ms. Rauschl’s youth made the relationships a bit harder to decipher, that too can be forgiven. If Ms. Libbey came across as more bland than reserved, that may be my own subjective response. Everyone had charm to spare, and their obvious enjoyment of sharing the stage with each other, really made me care about their characters and what happens to them.

What is more difficult to forgive was an obvious lack of direction. Characters came on stage, stood (or sat) and talked, then walked off stage. No effort was apparently made to intelligently block the piece with an eye towards focus and stage picture. No effort was apparently made to give the characters a reason to be on stage. No effort was apparently made to orchestrate tempo, mood, dialect, and energy level. It was really as if the actors were given the scripts, the set, and told to “go for it.” In one more-than-obvious lapse, the front door-bell rang, then the character who rang it appeared at the back door less than 1 second later – the sprinting skills of a cheetah couldn’t have accomplished this feat.

That the actors were able to pull it off in spite of all this is evidence of their skill and experience (even the first-timers). To those I haven’t mentioned yet (Neil Matchan, Debra Field, Abby Avery, Laura Dietrich, and Michael Stubbs), kudos for a job well done.

The set was simple, in that community-theatre three-walls-directly-facing-the audience way, but it was also attractive, convincing (that is, no obvious architectural lapses), and well-constructed. Unfortunately, the lighting was limited to white light on the set, blue light (and the same cloud gobo) on the back-drop, and no light whatsoever in the downstage corners. That would have been fine if those corners weren’t used, but several scenes played out there in complete darkness. Wasn’t anyone watching during tech rehearsals?

In spite of my criticism, I did enjoy this show. I liked that the characters occasionally were allowed to vent their (often) conflicting political views, and that the arguments remain relevant in spite of the play being at least 15 years old. I liked that the characters’ relationships and choices continually surprised, and that the humor remained on a restrained character-driven (rather than schtick-driven) level. I liked that Ms. Rauschl didn’t waste much time convincing us she was 75, even though she looked more than 20 years younger. And I liked that the French characters didn’t waste time finding their individuality beneath their at-first-glance stereotypical roles.

Not to belabor the point, I fully understand how in small community theatres like this, the director is also usually saddled with design and producing duties, conflicting schedules with other plays, and a thousand other reasons for neglecting the conceptualization and directing tasks. Still, the director did the main job well – he cast the show with people who fit their characters like French Silk gloves and who could smoothly make us care about their story.

Kudos to Kudzu for taking a chance on “Taking a Chance on Love.”

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

** Full Disclosure – Mr. Ellsworth is a good friend, with whom I’ve worked on more than one occasion. On the other hand, I’m usually able to “get away with” writing what I really think about his work. That being said, I also know he sweats profusely at the drop of a hat (TMI?), yet here, he remained surprisingly unmoist.

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