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The Ransom of Miss Elverna Dower
a Comedy
by Laurie Bryant

ID# 4635

SHOWING : October 03, 2014 - October 04, 2014



If somebody kidnapped your least favorite teacher, would you want her back? In an award-winning comedic tale loosely based on O. Henry’s classic story, Casey and Tim nab their demanding English teacher to avoid having to take a test, but they find that no one wants her back! It’s bad enough that she corrects the grammar in their ransom note and makes them rewrite it, but when the captive teacher assigns them a research paper on famous kidnappings in history, the young kidnappers find themselves doing more school work than ever!…Meanwhile, nobody takes the new principal (a former student of Miss Dower’s) seriously, a high-strung ex-Marine corporate exec turned housewife runs a PTA bake sale fundraiser with military precision, a Star Trek-obsessed custodian works frantically to keep the crumbling building ship-shape and the football mascot believes himself a real Viking warrior with his sassy cousin from Brooklyn as his Valkyrie-in-training. Great characters and sharp humor make this loose adaptation of O. Henry’s classic "Ransom of Red Chief" a delightful choice for any audience.

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Typical Fare
by playgoer
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Following its superior production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," ACT1 Theater has returned to form with "The Ransom of Miss Elverna Dower." This family-friendly play from Laurie Bryant and Pioneer Drama Service, Inc. mixes children and adults in a school-based plot borrowed from O. Henry. Two students kidnap a disliked teacher to get out of an assignment, holding her in the basement of the school, and find that she is so disliked that no one wants her return, and the principal will NOT pay a ransom. It’s a cute premise, and could be enjoyable in the right production. This one isn’t it.

Director Candy Spahr seems to have directed the teens in the cast to use stagey gestures, while failing to get them to project adequately. Or perhaps she left them to their own devices. The adult performances are uneven too, with pace apparently not having been a consideration in the direction of the show. The casting, while generally appropriate, romantically pairs tall teen Jonathan Wells with much-younger-looking Cam Perkins (who gives a nice performance), leading to an "ew" moment at the conclusion of the play. There’s a lot of talent in the cast, but Ms. Spahr doesn’t seem to have been able to mold that talent into a set of consistently good performances. Luckily, the largest adult role, that of Principal Donnelly, is winningly played by the personable and energetic Pamela Johnson, who holds the show together as much as is possible. Other good performances occur in isolated moments that can’t alter the overall mediocrity of the show.

Technically, the show is better than all right. The set (construction by Rich Vandever) nicely uses distinct upstage and downstage portions of the stage, separated by the stage curtain. Sound and lighting by Dan Hamilton are excellent. Props, edible (JoAnn Komorner) and non-edible (Steve Cory) also impress. If only the director had been willing and/or able to shape the script’s flow and mold a cohesive set of performances, this could have been an enjoyable couple of hours of entertainment. The character of Miss Elverna Dower never appears in the play, and there’s a similar emptiness at the core of ACT1 Theater’s production of "The Ransom of Miss Elverna Dower." [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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