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Perfect Arrangement
a Comedy/Drama
by Topher Payne

COMPANY : The Process Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta on Ponce [WEBSITE]
ID# 4631

SHOWING : September 12, 2014 - October 04, 2014



Washington, 1950. At the U.S. Department of State, Director of Personnel Bob Martindale and his secretary, Norma Baxter, have been charged with the task of rooting out "deviant" security risks - meaning homosexuals. Unbeknownst to the Department, Bob and Norma are themselves closeted - they’ve married each other’s partners, Jim and Millie, as a cover. In order to maintain the façade for visitors, the Martindales and the Baxters have created lives as perfect as a sitcom - right down to the corny jokes and occasional product placements. But when an employee discovers their secret and threatens exposure, the group discovers how difficult maintaining the illusion can be.

Playwright Topher Payne
Director DeWayne Morgan
Millie Martindale Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Barbara Grant Amanda Cucher
Bob Martindale Larry Davis
Theodore Sunderson Charles Green
Norma Baxter Kristin R. Kalbli
James Baxter Bryan Lee
Kitty Sunderson Karen Whitaker
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Perfidious Derangement
by playgoer
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Topher Payne’s "Perfect Arrangement" marries a 1950’s sitcom style with a storyline about McCarthy-esque witch-hunting of gays and other "deviants." It gets progressively darker as the plot proceeds, ending with a somewhat anachronistic divide between gay pride (the majority of the cast) and repression (Mr. Martindale). That’s not the only anachronistic element - there’s also a reference to frozen pie crusts in 1950, although patenting and retail packaging of frozen pie crusts first occurred in the mid-1950s.

But "Perfect Arrangement" was written for modern audiences and does not claim to be a slice of real-life America in 1950. There are highly stylized moments and acting styles throughout the play, particularly when the Martindales and Baxters are pretending to be happily married, heterosexual couples (when in reality it’s the two husbands and the two wives who are the "real" couples). The first scene plays like a television sitcom, with obvious laughs and with product testimonials taking the place of commercials. When the plot starts taking over, the laughs are still there, but they’re combined with heart.

Mr. Payne has written seven sharply-etched characters, and director DeWayne Morgan has populated the roles with actors who give their all to make the characters come to life. Karen Whitaker is an airhead personified as Kitty Sunderson, and Charles Green is her testosterone-fueled, no-nonsense husband Theodore. Larry Davis is a bit of a strait-laced martinet as Bob Martindale, and Barbara Cole Uterhardt is all charm and fluff as the public Millie Martindale, and a bit of a foul-mouthed pragmatist as the private Millie. Bryan Lee makes James Baxter the baby-faced, fey man he needs to be, and Kritin Kalbli more than ably portrays his Amazonian wife Norma. Barbara Grant, a character who swings for both teams, so to say, is brought to life by the elegant and charismatic Amanda Cucher. If she doesn’t seem quite old enough for the role, her acting stamps her as the perfect Barbara Grant.

Nikki Thomas has costumed the show splendidly, and Elisabeth Cooper’s lighting design and Charlie Miller’s sound design do all that’s necessary to make the show come across. If Nadia Morgan’s set design doesn’t scream "1950" (especially in the wall color/design) and if the wigs are pretty wiggy looking, they don’t prove to be detriments to the enjoyment of the show as a whole.

DeWayne Morgan and the top-notch cast get just about all the laughs to be expected from the script, while pouring the requisite heart into it too. This production of "Perfect Arrangement" is a joy from start to finish, providing about as much entertainment as can be expected from a comedy with a few political points to make. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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