Froth à la mode


By Neil Simon
Directed by Chris Fields
J.E.T. Theatre Company
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

This play about a dinner party cooks up an imaginary meal that promises a full course of comic delectables. But according to the plot, the ingredients are left uncooked in pans and bowls and the cooks have fled without explanation. So what happened?

No one expects perfection from a Neil Simon performance without a seasoned ensemble and a million dollars. This earnest company pushed a little too hard to make up for its lack of time and money. But the production was on its way to quality, and more plays from this important genre should be encouraged.

The director choreographed the mayhem well throughout, and no one stinted on technical support. But the pumped-in energy rose and fell like an uncertain soufflé, sometimes lumpy, sometimes quite delicious.

Judith E. Taranto (the eponymous entrepreneur of the J.E.T. company) picked an ideal vehicle for her abilities as actress and producer. Otto Sanchez, as her lawyer husband, tended to erupt like a spitting volcano, unhappily burdened with tedious plays on words due to his character's temporary deafness.

Mierre, the star player, was educated at the Stonehenge Ballet and Floral Society (at least according to the program notes). Mr. Mierre's sense of humor was sometimes very funny and sometimes just loud. The cheery Helene Belmont as his wife looked just like Barbra Streisand in a supporting role.

Rock Crawford, portraying an insouciant analyst with Paul Lynde affectations, phoned in his Thursday night group therapy by conference call. Gloria Seron as his hysterical TV-hostess wife was funniest when practicing La Maze to calm her incessant, and usually amusing, lower-back spasms. With clever costumes by Kip Kirkendall, Ms. Seron wore the perfect blood-red frock to elicit the remark: "I can't believe she wore that dress to this party!"

Kent Patrick Hatch was fine as a deputy mayor trying to protect his reputation, and Jocelyn Druyan, as his shrewish wife, won the prize for best portrayal of Neil Simon's droll humor.

The set, well constructed by Sean Morrissey, and shrieking of upper middle class, was excellently serviceable.

The high point of the play occurred when Mr. Mierre tried to explain the complicated plot to the police (solemnly played by Joannie Kaplan and Jenny Ducaud). Although Mierre's character is ignorant of the truth, he creates an elaborately fictional account-which turns out (perhaps) to be the truth. The actor and director stirred this pièce de résistance with considerable creativity. Nevertheless, the real story was ultimately left up to the audience's imagination. This choice made the play shimmer and gleam at moments; but ultimately it remained a frothy dish lacking the savory taste and logic of a life once lived. In other words, the Champagne was real. The meat and potatoes were up to you.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2

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Copyright 1997 Marshall Yaeger