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Swell Party

a Comedy Mystery
by Topher Payne

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 4384

SHOWING : January 10, 2013 - January 27, 2013



Popular Atlanta playwright Topher Payne returns to us on the heels of his widely embraced 2011 GET hit Tokens of Affection. GET has exclusively commissioned this comedy especially for our patrons.

Tobacco heir Smith Reynolds returns from a New York vacation to his North Carolina estate with a surprise souvenir: a wife. The new Mrs. Reynolds is a popular jazz singer, a dozen years older than Smith, and arrives with a carload of gin and a certifiably insane acting coach. The wedding party is flat-out ruined when the groom turns up dead. As the guests gather to reconstruct the evening’s events and try to solve the mystery, it becomes clear that for Southerners, the truth isn’t nearly as important as a good story.

Playwright Topher Payne
Producing Artistic Director Robert Farley
Director Shannon Eubanks
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Assistant Stage Manager Hayley Brotherton
Stage Manager Gretchen Butler
Wig Design George Deavours
Properties Design M. C. Park
Costume Design Linda Patterson
Scenic Design Jonathan Rollins
Lighting Design Bryan Rosengrant
Erle McMichael Scott DePoy
Libby Holman Reynolds Suehyla El-Attar
Kate Reynolds Jo Howarth
Blanche Yurka Tess Malis Kincaid
Ab Walker Tony Larkin
Smith Reynolds Weston Manders
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


A Swellegant, Elegant Party
by playgoer
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Topher Payne's script for "Swell Party" has a Rashomon-style quality to it, with five members of the rich Reynolds household giving testimony to Erle McMichael (Scott Depoy) about the circumstances of Smith Reynolds' death. Live re-creations of the events play out in the differing styles of their testimony. It's a clever, entertaining touch, never used to excess. The script is very smart, and played to perfection by the cast under Shannon Eubanks' excellent direction.

The set, by Jonathan Rollins, shows the neoclassical library of Reynolda House mansion and its doors to the outside. It's a handsome set, but somewhat austere. Lighting design by Bryan Rosengrant does a wonderful job of delineating the "real" scenes from the re-enactment scenes and effectively portrays lightning and fireworks, aided by Dan Bauman's sound design. The cyc is a slate gray on days threatening rain, turning blue when the weather clears, but having an odd cluster of rainbow colors at times.

Linda Patterson's costumes are colorfully attractive and help set the scene in 1932. Tess Malis Kincaid gets the lion's share of the most extravagant costumes (or, rather, the shepherd's share), and they look great on her model-like frame. Mr. Payne's script makes reference to a number of costumes, and they come to life beautifully in this production.

The acting is superb. Jo Howarth embodies a starchy Southern matriarch as Kate Reynolds. Weston Manders brings energy and a refreshing believability to her nephew, Smith Reynolds, would-be aviator. Suehyla El-Attar does a fine job as Jewess spit-fire Libby Holman, Smith's older, Broadway-star wife. Scott Depoy grounds the action, and Tony Larkin provides an undercurrent of obsequious resentment as Al Walker, Smith's best friend. Tess Malis Kincaid is appropriately over the top as Blanche Yerka, Libby Holman's tag-along alcoholic acting coach. Best of all, though, is Kate Donadio as Babe Collier Vaught, a well-bred, penniless widow employed as social secretary for the household. It's both funny and heartbreaking when she pauses at the door, awaiting a gentleman to open it for her, before realizing her station means she will be opening her own doors from then on.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the production and could follow Topher Payne's plot throughout, that wasn't true of all audience members. One comment I heard after the show was "I couldn't understand any of them; they all had accents." The implications of Smith Reynolds' death were also lost on some audience members, who couldn't quite figure out who had shot him. I'd consider this more a failing on the part of those audience members than on Mr. Payne's part. He has written a clever, intriguing, well-constructed play based on historical fact, but, like any mystery, one that requires the audience to pay some attention to the proceedings. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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