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Greetings Friend Your Kind Assistance Is Required

a Comedy
by Topher Payne

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 5013

SHOWING : January 05, 2017 - January 22, 2017



When retired schoolteacher Rhonda Charles opens an email in her spam folder with the subject line, “Greetings Friend your kind assistance is required,” the journey of a lifetime begins. With her best friend Marybeth in tow, Rhonda travels to the mysterious kingdom of Zardelgnia, facing down guerilla fighters and attempting to rescue the captured Crown Prince. Along the way, Rhonda and Marybeth encounter danger, unexpected romance, and a new sense of purpose - proving it’s never too late to find new adventure.

WORLD PREMIERE COMEDY from Atlanta’s Favorite Playwright Topher Payne. Directed by Shannon Eubanks.

Director Shannon Eubanks
General Mahzuno/Barry/Ianthe Cristian Gonzalez
Bedrich/Rodney/Harish Jef Holbrook
Marybeth Mulaney Karen Howell
Princess Gyatsa/Tammy/Verusha Stacy Melich
Prince Paljor Skye Passmore
Rhonda Charles Brenda Porter
Alicia/Tinkoloshe/Nastasya Parris Sarter
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Greetings, Audience, Your Kind Attendance after Intermission Is Unexpected
by playgoer
Monday, January 9, 2017
Topher Payne’s plays are sometimes based on historical fact ("Swell Party," "The Only Light in Reno"), sometimes based in reality ("Tokens of Affection," "Perfect Arrangement"), and sometimes take place in a quirky world of their own (the "Lakebottom" plays). "Greetings Friends Your Kind Assistance Is Required" falls firmly into the last category. You either buy into the skewed, comic worldview of the play, or you don’t. I’ll understand if you don’t.

The scenic design by Jamie Bullins features a primitive map of fictional Zardelgnia as a backdrop for the first few scenes, in which Rhonda Charles sets up a website for Very Helpful People, to which the imprisoned Prince Paljor sends a request for help in overcoming the regime of General Mahzuno. When Rhonda drags her roommate Marybeth Mulaney to Zardelgnia in response to this request, the backdrop falls and we see the yurts and mountain background of the fictional land of Zardelgnia, tucked in at the intersection of Russia, Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan. A castle tower functioning as a prison rotates on stage right as needed for the scenes featuring Prince Paljor. Kevin Frazier’s lighting design, Preston Goodson’s sound design, and Emmie Tuttle’s colorful costumes help define the exotic locale. Maclare Park’s props add finishing touches, including a charming camel puppet.

The plot shows the means by which Rhonda and Marybeth use their pre-retirement skills as a second grade teacher and a human resources professional to resolve the civil conflict in Zardelgnia. There are clever touches, notably in how the deaths foretold in the prologue come to pass in unexpected ways, but things just go on too long, and much of the humor comes across as "in" jokes presupposing a detailed knowledge of popular U.S. culture of the 1980s and 1990s. Once the plot seems to tie up, we are presented with a number of scenes that detail the subsequent lives of the characters, aiming for a sentimental conclusion that is overdue once it arrives.

Acting and direction are as much of a let-down as the plot. With triple-casting of kooky material like this, wildly comic performers with range are called for. Here, only Jef Holbrook seems to have the naturally goofy persona needed, and director Shannon Eubanks treats all characters with too much respect as human beings, when some would work best as pure caricatures. Parris Sarter gets to do some nice work in act two, and Stacy Melich is a hoot in the small role of travel agent Tammy, but their other characters don’t share the same comic spark. Cristian Gonzalez is fine in his roles, but doesn’t stand out the way a more seasoned actor might.

Three of the actors take on only one role apiece. Karen Howell is the true standout here, investing Marybeth with energy and bite, expertly working both the comedy and drama of her role. Skye Passmore has the looks of a Far Eastern prince, but doesn’t quite capture the mixture of wide-eyed innocence and innate heroism that makes up his character. Brenda Porter is simply unremarkable as lead character Rhonda, and stumbled frequently in her lines in the early performance I saw.

Despite the clunky movement of the plot, there’s plenty of activity onstage, and James Donadio’s fight choreography makes a second-act knife fight exciting. Still, the play moves at a leisurely pace, clocking in at two and a half hours. There’s a bit of a slapdash feeling to the whole proceedings, much like the program cover that features a one-hump Dromedary camel for a part of the world populated by the two-hump Bactrian camel (as seen in Jamie Bullins’ backdrop). You either buy in to Topher Payne’s riffs on popular culture and time-worn royalty intrigue or you don’t. At least I returned after intermission; the other parties in my row did not. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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