Mar 27, 2007 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
A ditzy housewife named Edith, a loudmouth husband, a ne’er-do-well son-in-law and a beautiful, but air-headed, blond daughter.
Though that certainly describes the lead characters from the classic sitcom, “All in the Family,” it also applies to the funny foursome in the two-act comedy, “Never Too Late,” being staged by the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild at the First Presbyterian Church auditorium.
“Never Too Late” is like “All in the Family” but without the political satire. Instead its slightly dysfunctional family deals with a very personal and surprising situation: 50-something Edith is pregnant.
Cast fleshes out characters
That’s a paper-thin premise for an entire play, but the talented and experienced BTG cast milk it for all they’ve got, and they’ve got plenty!
Jon Wright plays Edith’s husband, and he deftly carries Harry over a gamut of emotional reactions from belligerence to bewilderment. A big, bearded man, Wright’s right for the role and displays a flair for funny business from flustered bluster to slow burns.
BTG veteran Josh Taylor portrays the devil-may-care son-in-law, Charlie Clinton. He’s a thorn in Harry’s side at the family lumberyard, but he means well especially when it comes to his lovely wife, Kate, played by Blair Dawson.
Like Wright, Taylor and Dawson each bring a little something extra to their characters, fleshing them out with multiple motives and subtle changes. For instance, after Edith’s expectancy is established, Charlie makes an offhand remark to his nubile wife, an aspiring fashion-plate who’s been reduced to wearing big, round hair-curlers, tacky housecoats and mismatched aprons as she spells Edith in the kitchen.
“It’s funny,” Charlie muses. “It’s like Mom’s getting younger and you’re getting older.”
Oops. Dawson’s Kate pauses imperceptibly before oozing a facetious, “Thanks!” Her sarcasm suddenly shifts to inspiration, however, as she bats her big blues eyes at Charlie and coos a sensual vow to also conceive a child.
Weston’s winning ways
The glue that holds the whole show together, however, is Jan Weston’s adorable Edith.
Weston turns in a multi-layered characterization of a seemingly simple, always accommodating house-frau that somehow manages to get her way whenever she wants it. And in Act 2, Edith even experiments with some serious self-reliance. No matter where she’s headed, Weston makes Edith believable and appealing, credible and cute.
Now that she’s pregnant and prone to fainting spells, Edith quits doing housework and starts embarking on shopping sprees for clothes and cha-cha records. She hires a contractor to tear up the second floor to put in a nursery. His wife’s sudden transformation has left Harry even more out of sorts than usual, and he often mocks her high-pitched entreaties, an insult she dutifully ignores.
“It’s as if a whole new world has opened up to me,” Edith gushes. “I was happy in the old world,” Harry grumbles.
Complications ensue, including Charlie being run ragged by his conception-obsessed wife while Edith is being urged by her friend, Grace, to make her own decisions.
After both Kate and Edith squabble with their hubbies over the phone, Harry and Charlie spend the evening at a bar getting plastered. As they drive home an off-stage car crash signals their return and wakes their next-door neighbor, the mayor. The subsequent drunken interlude and Edith’s sudden disappearance comprise most of Act 2.
As cooking sherry pickles their characters, Wright and Taylor plumb the depths of slapstick, with the younger, nimbler Taylor taking most of the punishment. Before this show’s run concludes, Taylor will be bruised from head to toe as he endures no less than four floor denting pratfalls plus a head-butting encounter with a drop-leaf table-top. Taylor’s pain is the audience’s pleasure, though, as his every move elicits laughter.
After sobering up, the two husbands reconnect with their wives, reconcile with the mayor and are let off the hook by the cops. All of which may be expected in a comedy, but the way it unfolds is what makes it worth watching, and producer Steve Borek and director Jon Barden make sure it unfolds smoothly at every turn.
Barden also appears briefly as the Lambert family doctor. Four character actors round out the cast. Margot Wibbe plays Edith’s spunky pal, Grace, while Bryan Allen Jones portrays the fussbudget, paisley-bedecked Mayor Crane. Patrick Bridenbaker and Kitty Poss are both typecast in roles reflecting their real-life professions, he as a home-renovation contractor and she as a policewoman. Keep an eye out for Poss’ reaction when a tipsy Charlie stares too closely into her silver badge.
“Never Too Late” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday March 30, April 6 and 7 and at 3 p.m. Sunday April 1 at the Presbyterian Education Center, 64 Oswego St., Baldwinsville. Tickets cost $15, or $12 for students, and $12 for seniors at the April 1 matinee. Call 635-1404.