Mar 03, 2009 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Despite yeoman efforts by Baldwinsville Theatre Guild’s cast and crew, “Exit the Body” remains dead on arrival.
No amount of animated acting nor clever stagecraft could breathe life into Fred Carmichael’s stilted comedy about a woman mystery writer from Manhattan who has rented an old Colonial home in New England, only to discover a body in the living-room closet.
Then the body disappears.
That’s when the fun should begin, but it never does.
Maybe this predictable shtick was amusing when Carmichael’s play was first produced in 1961, at the Dorset Playhouse in Vermont. Maybe those audiences, who received no more than three channels on their brand new TV sets, found the play’s pot-boiler novelist and her snide secretary a real hoot. Maybe they gaped in amazement at that double-doored closet, which leads conveniently into a library. Maybe they were actually gripped by suspense when an amnesiac, a lawman and a crook stumble upon each other in the dark. Maybe.
Directed by Jon Barden, who has a soft spot for slapstick, BTG’s ongoing production features 10 well-experienced actors, each of whom works hard to milk the script for any and all laughs possible. Once in a while they succeed (as when Stephanie Boivin as the secretary notes that the locals “are all too busy practicing for their cow-milking contest”), but when they do, it’s more despite the dialogue than because of it.
Only a better-delineated clash of cultures might have revived “Exit the Body.” In this case, however, only one of the actors — John LaCasse as the taxi-driving sheriff — made the effort to adopt a downeast accent, a ploy that brings a rural, comic quality to his character.
If Blair Dawson as the ditzy maid, Randal Boivin as her thieving boyfriend and Helen O’Toole as the busy-body realtor had all employed New England inflections, they would’ve elicited heartier chuckles as their country bumpkins battled the visiting city slickers.
Without those conflicting social sensibilities, the cast (which also includes Sheryl DeMarco, Willow Eckel, Jay Burris, Mark Baker and Gregg Bilyeau) is left with little to do besides grouse and gripe and wonder where the stolen diamonds were stashed. The talk is interminable. It begins with a convoluted exposition and continues with annoying after-dinner banter rendered in tones pitched high enough to wake the dead.
Coffee is served, drinks are poured and the telephone rings. One after another, the characters chat with an unseen Mabel, the local phone operator, who’s as confused as the audience. These aimless activities drag on over two acts (and two 20-minute intermissions) before the verbosity gives way to a final act full of people with flashlights on a darkened stage entering and exiting the set’s four doors. Who will bump into whom? Does anybody really care?
“This has gotten completely out of hand,” observes Willow Eckel’s lady novelist, aptly summarizing Carmichael’s unfathomable, unfunny farce.
“Exit the Body” runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday March 6, 7, 13 and 14 and 3 p.m. Sunday March 8 at the Presbyterian Education Center, 64 Oswego St. Tickets cost $15 or $12 for students and $12 for seniors March 8 only; 635-7382.
Helen O’ Toole (Denise Ballou) and Vernon Cookley (John LaCasse) are planning a secret 2 a.m. search to find out why bodies keep appearing and disappearing in the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild’s production of “Exit The Body.”