By Michael McKeever
Directed by Dale Westgaard
Driftwood Players at
Wade James Theatre
950 Main St.
Plays through June 26
Friday night, with the marquee outside reading “Suite Surrender” by Michael McKeever, the audience inside the Wade James theatre cheered, applauded and whistled their approval as two dueling divas acted out one of the cleverest scripts performed this season in the Driftwood Players (Players) last main stage production of 2015-16.
Not since the Players’ over-the-top success, “Boeing Boeing,” have slamming doors, shuttling actors and misunderstood circumstances been so much fantastically great fun.
With a strong directorial lead from Dale Westgaard, the nine-member cast of “Suite Surrender” delivered their lines with absolute precision, proving that long rehearsal calendars can turn community theatre efforts into professional quality productions. Cast members played off each other’s energy and within moments of act one successfully transported the audience to the ’40s USO-talent days, where the names Errol Flynn, Red Skelton and Jimmie Durante are batted back and forth.
Studied authenticity on every level of this production will make for a very successful run for “Suite Surrender,” including faithful-to-the-era musical arrangements by sound technician Rick Wright. Anyone born in the 1950s or earlier will appreciate Wright’s inclusion of such tunes as Chattanooga Choo Choo, and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me — energetic, jazzy jump-and-jive music perfect for the pace of the play.
The music selections of playwright McKeever were funny enough, but when diva Athena Sinclair (played wonderfully by Melody Mislin) sprinkles “her” hotel suite with photographs of herself to the tune You Made Me Love You, the audience roared. McKeever is the recipient of five Carbonell Awards, and that headlines a long list of theatre awards granted the prolific playwright.
Artfully Edmonds will always raise a toast to costume designer Meagan McDonald (seen here in this My Edmonds News YouTube interview) whose choices for this production reflects genuine talent. Applause given for the bell boy uniforms; Pippet’s pink seersucker suit (Pippet played hilariously the talented Greg Cochran); the sweeping gown worn by the inebriated Mrs. Osgood (Brava! to Mary Sabetto, who graces the Wade James stage with her return to the theatre.)
A brilliant set design was executed by Brian Lechner – from the Mediterranean blue and Greek columns of the vied-for hotel suite, to the long shadows cast across the stage from the exterior lit window, the 1940s style bar and (of course!) the rotary phone and the still-life oil paintings – all perfect choices.
Playing the bellhop “Francis,” Ryan St. Martin (by now a veteran of the Driftwood Players) proved his chops once again as he opened “Suite Surrender” with an entrance that elicited guffaws from the audience and set the play into fast forward. Equally funny, and a fascinating actor, Terry Boyd plays Otis the bellboy and sidekick to Francis. Otis screams, misunderstands, acts like a baby and otherwise – emotionally – belies the 6-foot-plus gentle giant frame of Mr. Boyd.
The Artfully Edmonds “Tony Award” goes to Cindy Giese French for her portrayal of diva Claudia McFadden in Michael McKeever’s “Suite Surrender.” Giese French captivated the audience with her performance of the 1940 hit Bésame Mucho, stepping out of her Funny Girl role during an amazing interlude. But moreover she brought down the house with her vamp-walk, her intimidation tactics – made legendary, and her characterization of a true stage diva.
To its credit, Driftwood Players has made a smooth transition as Kim Smith takes on the duties of managing director. A round of applause goes to the company’s board of directors for recent decisions that will take effect for the 2016-17 Season.
Board president Ted Jaquith announced in his welcoming remarks that reserved seating will be available beginning with the season’s opening show, “Wait Until Dark,” by Frederick Knott, which opens on Friday, Sept. 16.
Before we rush too quickly into next season however, the Driftwood Players owe us the much-anticipated “7th Annual Festival of Shorts,” For one weekend only, the Driftwood Players will present audiences with an opportunity to jury eight fresh 15-minute productions. Awards will go out to the “People’s Choice” winner and the adjudicators selection. Call 425-774-9600 for tickets to the Festival or tickets to next season.
— By Emily Hill