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Fool's Paradise
a British Farce
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Peter Coke

COMPANY : Polk Street Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stellar Cellar
ID# 2412

SHOWING : September 07, 2007 - September 22, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

This British comedy, by Peter Coke, reveals the problems faced by the two ex-wives of Basil Hayling. He left them his mansion, but no money and with an embargo on selling anything. An emerald necklace left them by Basil's sister, could solve the problem, but is it worth anything? Two antique dealers compete for it, but cause more confusion, along with the elderly housekeeper and the son, who expects a legacy if he turns 30 unmarried. Hilarity abounds! Directed by Michael Campion. Box Office (770) 218-9669.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Michael Campion
Tech David Campion
Stage Manager Mary Nimsgern
Costumes Ruta Wilk
Philip Roger Albelo
Susan Suzanne Caglar
Rose Diane Hail
Fiona Anne Jefferson
Brigette Mary Nimsgern
Jane CarolAnn Peoples
Julius Caxton Murray Sarkin
Catherine Anita Stratton
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REVIEWS

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Hey Ma! Look what I found in the basement!
by line!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
3.0
I have a soft spot in my heart for Polk Street Players. This community theatre group has been in operation since 1979 and is the quintessence of a community theatre. Their performances are presented in the “Stellar Cellar”, a rehabbed, reclaimed corner of the basement of the historic St. James Episcopal Church in Marietta. Their stage is not big enough to park two economy-sized cars on, their seating will accommodate only about 50 patrons, and if you sit in the back, be mindful of the low hanging support beam (it’s wrapped in Styrofoam so you don’t get hurt if you hit your head on it). The place is tiny, but it is filled with love and warmth that you feel from the minute you arrive for a show.

The lobby area is also tiny, but it is overflowing with poster paper marquees pasted with snapshots of the many past productions done under their auspices. If you look closely, you’ll see many well known local community theatre actors, as well as many housewives and businessmen who once gave acting a try. Polk Street is all about sharing the joy of putting on a show. Like many other local community theatres, Polk Street has meager physical and financial resources, but they have huge hearts and an abundant love of theatre.

Due to the wonderful support of their patrons (and the limited seating), many of their performances are frequently sold out. Their audience is more than just the St. James “church folk” family and friends; I see folks in the audience that I have also seen at Stage Door, Theatre in the Square, 7 Stages, and many other more “acclaimed” theatres around town. Polk Street is more than just a church basement community theatre; it is a touchstone for our theatre community. A pilgrimage to Polk Street re-instills in us the simple joys (and occasional foibles) of community theatre and live performance in an intimate setting.

I got to see their current production, “Fool’s Paradise” on opening night thanks to a little bit of luck. My wife and I just happened to be in the neighborhood, but didn’t have reservations. Thanks to a last minute cancellation we were able to get in. As usual, I knew a few folks in the cast, and was grateful for the opportunity to be able to see and support them in this show.

“Fool’s Paradise” is a British farce from the pen of Peter Coke, a veteran of British entertainment. It is pretty much standard in its construction: eccentric characters, implausible situations, desperate circumstances and a finale where all ends happily after all. It is not a remarkable script, (the plot involving some bequeathed Emeralds being sold to save the day is irrelevant) but it is a sturdy one (albeit a bit long with three acts). I must also say it is very (er, make that “veddy”) British with a few jokes, references and slang that only a native Briton will understand. The comedy in this script isn’t driven by punch lines and jokes as much as it is by the eccentricities and interactions of the characters.

Director Michael Campion (a native Londoner in days of yore) brought as much true English flavor to this production as he could. The entire play takes place in one room and the set was the best designed, decorated and built I’ve ever seen at Polk Street. I was quite impressed at the detail of both the set decorations and the way the walls of the room were convoluted to give the impression of a much larger space. The view out the window onstage was exquisite (and the lighting of it was perfect as well).

The cast of this show is comprised of 8 people (a veritable crowd on Polk Street’s tiny stage) who made up one of the stronger ensembles seen on this stage in a while. While their accents were occasionally fleeting and inconsistent, their sense of fun never flagged. Although I prefer my British farce with more energy and a quicker pace, the audience seemed to take well to the somewhat slower tempo of this production. Diane Hail as the ancient housemaid, Rose, virtually stole the show! However she had a lot of competition from the likes of Murray Sarkin as the Hungarian hustler Julius Claxton, Anita Stratton as worrisome Catherine Hayling, and Carolann Peoples as former actress Jane Hayling. The supporting roles featured some strong performances from Roger Albelo as the future groom Philip Hayling, Suzanne Caglar as the sweet ingénue Susan Dawson, Annie Jefferson as the glamorous Fiona Renshaw and especially Mary Nimsgren as the germ-a-phobe Brigette Blair. Occasional lapses in accent and a minor “going up” on lines is something I can overlook because the affected actors got back on track smoothly, quickly and never broke character!

“Fool’s Paradise” is a prime example of what community theatre is all about: folks who love theatre (but don’t do it for a living), having fun putting on a show. Even if the audience doesn’t get all the jokes, they definitely get the fun and share in the joy of live theatre.
-Rial
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