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Breakfast with Les and Bess

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Lee Kalcheim

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 2510

SHOWING : October 12, 2007 - November 10, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Les and Bess are a married couple who co-host a radio talk show in New York City before the turmoil of the sixties stirred the country out of its complacency. Les and Bess are about to have their talk show cancelled because of lack of Interest. Since their marriage is based on their show, they may have to cancel their marriage as well. Les wants to go to Houston to be a sports announcer, his dream. Bess wants to stay in New York. Will Les and Bess stay together? Will their budding radical of a son straighten up? Will their daughter actually marry the sailor she has just met? Will their long-distant phone call from Princess Grace of Monaco ever come through? Stay tuned..


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jerry Harlow
Costume Design Jane Kroessig
Stage Manager Kathy Manning
Board Operator David Shelton
Shelby Cassie Ferguson
Roger Joey Florez
Nate Gordon Giddings
David Brian Kahl
Les Brink Miller
Bess Denise Nogueiras
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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The Times They Are a’Charming
by line!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
3.5
The Kudzu Playhouse in Roswell is fast becoming the little community theatre that could! It’s been a somewhat shaky year for them with many obstacles and difficulties in opening their new location and several unexpected changes to their line up for the 2007 season. Things didn’t look too good for the longtime Roswell community theatre for much of this year. But they finally got their new location opened (and by the way it is a major improvement over the old place – better parking, easier access, great seating and two stages!). Their first show in the new space, “Bermuda Avenue Triangle” (an unfamiliar title for many), was a bona fide hit, with many sold out performances and audiences who couldn’t get enough of it’s bawdy (yet exceedingly charming) geriatric comedy.

On the heels of that success comes “Breakfast with Les and Bess”. It’s another unfamiliar title (for me at least), but another charmer of a show. The story is about a middle aged couple in 1961 who host a morning radio show from their New York City apartment. Each morning on the airwaves they talk about themselves, their famous friends and share stories of the previous evenings exploits among New York’s high society (kind of a sixties version of “Regis and Kelly”, only no video). They have been doing this for the past 10 years and have been quite successful. The problem is that it is now “the sixties” and the “times they are a changing” (both inside and outside their apartment). Add to that an 18 year-old daughter who has a big surprise for them and her older brother who can’t seem to stay out of the newspapers, and you have a formula for a nice slice of late fifties/early sixties Americana with lots of opportunities for farce-like desperate situations and light comedy.

This is more of a situation comedy, with a farce-like undertone of desperation, than an elaborate joke-fest. This one doesn’t have gut busting laughs, but it does have lots of fun, and funny, things and people. It felt more like a modern day comedy of manners than anything else to me. Not raucous, but quite enjoyable, and (dare I say it again? Yes! Dare! Dare!) charming!

This production was ably directed by Jerry Harlow, who did a wonderful job of maximizing the performances from a cast featuring many new faces to the Kudzu stage. The staging and blocking of the show was smooth and supported the dialogue and emotions of the scenes effectively (and correctly, in my opinion). There were several bits of “business” from different characters sprinkled throughout the show which added an extra bit of “funny” to a number of scenes. They weren’t over the top, or upstaging, but were a tasty bit of icing on the comedy cake.

Overall, the new faces in the cast were a very pleasant surprise. When I see, in the program, that someone is new to the stage or doesn’t have a long resume, I tend to lower my expectations. I didn’t need to do that here! The supporting players, while not necessarily the most experienced, were well cast and all were quite impressive! They understood their characters well, they knew their purpose in their scenes, they demonstrated good comedic timing and delivery, and most importantly, they worked as a team.

Cassie Ferguson, as daughter Shelby, was wonderfully effusive and full of energy and youthful exuberance. Joey Florez, as “Ensign” Roger was a standout for me. He has a natural flair for comedy. His facial expressions, timing and body language were all “spot on”. Brian Kahl, as brother David, doesn’t have as much to work with in the script, but he did a truly impressive job of creating a totally believable and entertaining character without succumbing to shtick or clichés. It takes a smart actor to know when to underplay a character. Another standout in the supporting cast was Gordon Giddings as Les’ old buddy Nate. His scene, with the many touches of inspired drunk “business”, is one of the funniest in the show.

The lead roles of Les and Bess were portrayed by Atlanta stage veteran Brink Miller and newcomer Denise Nogueiras.

The role of Les is another one than seems custom made for Brink. He slips into it with an ease and comfort that belie his skill. I know Brink was working really hard in this role (and especially in this production), but I also know it looked to the rest of the world like he was just cruising along. They say the good ones always make it look easy. That’s true with Brink’s performance here. Believable, entertaining and (oh no! not again!!!) charming!

Denise Nogueiras is new to Atlanta. Her bio mentions that she is returning to the stage after somewhat of an absence. Her choices for Bess were consistent and appropriate to character. She has very good stage presence and seems comfortable and confident onstage. The scenes with Les, where Bess was being sincere, were strong, but her scenes of comedy and desperation could have used a little more energy in my opinion. She also hit me on one of my pet peeves: projection. She has a good voice with great diction and enunciation, but in a number of scenes her volume was way too soft. She is obviously a good actress, but I suspect this role is a little more than she is used to. As the run continues, and she gets used to carrying such a large and demanding role, I’ll bet she finds the key to make the comedy and desperation as energetic and strong as the sincerity. She’s got the talent and I am anxious to see more from her in the future.

Wally Hinds is apparently enjoying his new theatre because this set is taller and more detailed than the sets at the old Kudzu. OK, it’s an apartment, and it is not especially imaginative or unique, but there are some really neat details and set dressings which add a nice layer to the show. The bulk of the costumes looked good and were correct for the characters. I especially like the way Bess looked in the second act. Her hair and dress were exactly correct in my opinion.

And now for the things I feel the need to mention because they affected me in a negative fashion. The stage lighting appears to be in a period of transition for the theatre at the present time. The focus areas of the stage where some key scenes happen were lit well, but there were a number of shadows onstage which caught my eye during some of Les’ monologues. I feel sure that was due to a limited number of instruments available for this show. While most of the costumes were character correct and close to period, Roger’s uniform in particular didn’t fit well and looked like it needed some minor repair. Shelby’s hair style didn’t work for me. It was not period or character correct and detracted from her otherwise strong performance. Costumes, hair and makeup should always enhance a performance, and when they are not correct, they steal focus away from the performance and reduce the effectiveness of that performance.

That concludes my lecture for today…

I encourage you to go to the new Kudzu Playhouse in Roswell and spend an evening with Les and Bess. Have some breakfast. Breakfast at their house is a charming affair filled with fun and humor. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
-Rial
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