Habeas Corpus

By Alan Bennett
Directed by Steven Keim
Sanford Meisner Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

Skewering the Church and medical establishment of England, the writer, a certified madman and comic genius, tickled the audience in almost every nook and cranny, from raunchy subjects to ingenious subplots to wonderfully written lines to improvisatorial farce.

The director had some jolly fun doing amusing things with actors' bodies, music-hall tangos, and telephone cords. Remarkably, there were no weak spots in his choice of a talented cast of eleven.

George Millenbach played Doctor Wicksteed, who has fondled (through latex gloves) more sets of private parts than the most conscientious prostitute, and grown oblivious to their allure, until he met Tina Zaremba's character, gorgeous in or out of sweaters, who did wonderful and simple things with facial expressions as she gently cheer-led Scott Wood as the inexperienced Wicksteed son, caught in a tragedy the author miraculously made funny.

Full marks went to Mary Aufman, whose hefty character ("getting to look more and more like the Queen Mother") was funny just to look at. In her terrible wig she knew how to charge like a bull raging for the slaughter.

Alan T. Walker accompanied his entrances with hymnal strains as "Canon Throbbing," who is attracted to the Wicksteeds' daughter's boyish figure. Janice Hoffmann, as the spinsterish daughter, was determined to augment her breast size to flauntable proportions. Her transformation, when two massive plot appliances arrived to remake her à la Rubens, was awesome. Ed Smith, the bearer of the breasts, and the snapper of Polaroids to record them, groveled amusingly.

Jennifer Gordon as the conventional interlocutor maid moved human pieces around as efficiently as on a chessboard (which comprised the only semblance of a set) doing Audrey Hepburn slumming in Soho. Her accent thankfully faded as the evening wore on.

Susan Romanoff, who should be grateful for having Sigourney Weaver's quality and stage authority, played an English dame who once had more than a nodding acquaintance with Haile Selassie.

Steve Viola, a physical double for the author, had terrible trouble trying to hang himself; but Patrick Fitzpatrick as the vertically challenged Sir Percy Shorter, K.C.B., F.R.C.S., F.R.C.P. (and don't dare mention his condition!), curly-cued his hips around his belt to become a Chaplinesque, waddling question mark.

Blyte Columbo gave the cast a first-rate collection of amusing and colorful clothes and accessories. The uncredited sound (some Nina Rota music and nice breaking seashore sounds) and lighting were effective.

Come to zany England, where you'll see some beauties and have some laughs and perhaps a spot of tea--in your lap.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger

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