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Let Nothing You Dismay
a Comedy
by Topher Payne

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 4828

SHOWING : December 04, 2015 - December 20, 2015



It’s Christmas, and Kevin and Allie are about to become parents - they’re just waiting for a phone call. And though they’ve asked their families to keep their distance until they bring the baby home, of course no one keeps their distance. Kevin’s father visits with his much-younger wife and their extended clan, followed by Kevin’s mother with her veterinarian, her upstairs neighbor, and her favorite author, and then Allie’s family invades, including her ultra-competitive sister, her Bubbie, and Bubbie’s gentleman friend. Eight actors play twenty-two characters in this lightning-paced holiday farce that celebrates families of all kinds, and reminds us we’re all more alike than we realize.

Director Shannon Eubanks
Dennis, Jerry, Rich Bryan Brendle
Kaitlyn, Brianna, Angela Amanda Cucher
Paul, Doctor Tim, Mr. Yarmowich Mark Gray
Noreen, Charlotte, Bubbie Shelly McCook
Milford, Ivan, Oscar Doyle Reynolds
Tawny, Deb, Linda Gina Rickicki
Allie, Lizzie Emily Sams
Kevin, Leonard Ben Silver
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by playgoer
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Topher Payne’s brand-new holiday play, "Let Nothing You Dismay," gives eight comic actors a workout and a half, all while giving the audience an equally excessive amount of entertainment. The situation, concerning birth parents about to give their child up to adoptive parents, becomes comic mayhem when relatives of the adoptive parents (and their hangers-on) show up in waves in a hospital’s maternity wing waiting room. Each actor takes on two or three roles, all neatly delineated by Mr. Payne and brought to side-splitting life under Shannon Eubanks’ direction.

Chuck Welcome’s set shows us the waiting room, minimally decorated for the holidays, with a kitchenette stage left, seating center stage and stage right, and a pair of elevators and hallways upstage. As always, it’s nicely proportioned and professionally finished, down to the faux linoleum floor. J.D. Williams’ lighting lets everything be seen clearly, and Rial Ellsworth’s sound design mixes appropriate sound effects with delightful music selections.

The design elements that take this show to the next level are the myriad props (by Kathy Ellsworth), costumes (by Jim Alford), and wigs (by George Deavours). The costumes and wigs and props define characters almost as much as the performances do. All combine to make this show a rocking and rollicking frolic.

It would be hard to praise the performances enough. Everyone succeeds in creating obvious distinctions between (or among) their characters, down to the level of accents and body language. The most naturally comic performers are most successful in creating indelible characters. Shelly McCook and Gina Rickicki are particularly noteworthy in over-stuffing their roles with comic charisma. Kudos to Ms. Rickicki for speaking with her Botox-frozen face as Tawny! Amanda Cucher, Emily Sams, and Mark Gray also succeed admirably in filling multiple roles that showcase their immense acting skills.

A lot of credit has to go to Shannon Eubanks for inspiring her cast to create these splendid comic performances. Her blocking is also quite good, keeping sightlines pretty clear for most of the audience for most of the time, which could not have been an easy task with the stage filled with furniture and actors for much of the running time. Even when a speaking character’s face might not be visible to those at the edges of the audience, the reactions of other actors onstage keep interest on their own. This is a finely honed troupe under the direction of a highly skilled director.

All this would be meaningless, of course, unless the director and actors had good material to work with. Topher Payne has provided that quality material. The first act is a comic tour-de-force. I was expecting the second act to get even crazier, with actors running in and out as a revolving set of characters. Instead, the second act moves to a quieter place, with sincerity and moral lessons leading to a fairly sweet ending.

I can’t really complain about the direction the play takes, but I can complain about a couple of details that contradict reality. New York and Columbus, Ohio are both in the Eastern time zone, so a comment from New Yorkers about a time difference to the play’s setting of a Columbus hospital makes little sense. And grizzly bears are not native to Bulgaria. It’s okay having a fanciful story about a bear in Bulgaria, but at least make it a species native to the area!

Despite this couple of factual discrepancies, "Let Nothing You Dismay" succeeds admirably in its intention to keep audiences in stitches. And even though the setting is a hospital, Mr. Payne and this cast and director provide better stitches than any doctor could! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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