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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

Until the police arrive, I think I'll just stretch out for a while, dahling. --- Janet, after daintily executing her husband.
Lisa Pelikan & Larry Cedar
Lisa Pelikan & Larry Cedar
"Oh, dear, what can the matter be?" Janet hums seductively, a theme song that the actors repeatedly croon throughout Rupert Holmes' deft, daffy, complex comedy of terrors which is given the spiffy production it deserves by The Colony Theatre. It doesn't have a plot you can summarize or a cast you can itemize without spoiling the fun but that doesn't make much difference. Director Simon Levy gives full measure of chills and chuckles and has a sense of the Feydeau-esque farcical blocking so essential to making this play prance slyly and lasciviously along.

The English country house set is reminiscent of Michael Frayn's Noises Off and so is the tone Holmes takes with his actors. There are twists and turns in every scene and this is a cast that knows how to slither through them.

Act I begins with Janet and Derek skewering each other verbally in their cozy living room. The desperate housewife in a strapless black dress and high heels tries frantically to poison her spouse's cocktail. She succeeds. Or does she?

As she covers Derek's corpse with a quilt, his hand shoots up and grabs her throat. Turns out this is only a dress rehearsal with her lover John for the crime they're planning later. After lots of lusty thumping and squealing under the quilt, John staggers off and Janet finds a tape recorder under the table on which Derek has totally captured every murderous word and thump. The scene is more than set for the next event and so it goes in every imaginable combination with quite a few surprises.

Lisa Pelikan is deliciously lethal as she daintily trips around her living room, trying furiously to make that husband lie down and die. The elegance and sly stupidity of this character are exposed by Pelikan's portrait of Erica, the actress who plays Janet, in the play's second act. Life behind the scenes is no less lethal

Each actor plays at least two roles. Larry Cedar's flair for comedy infuses everything he does, from the affected English actor to the harried American director.

Samantha Raddock's role is unfortunately the clich├ęd dumb blonde, one we've seen a few times too many -- in Noises Off, Little Mary Sunshine and other productions ad nauseum. Raddock is an appealing performer and we wish her better luck next time.

J. Paul Boehmer and Bart Del Gatto exhibit zesty comic skill that totally shifts the focus from their classic good looks. The Colony's Artistic Director Barbara Beckley takes the stage herself for an at once authoritative and mean cameo turn that demonstrates that the smiling pre-curtain speeches come from an actress with chops.

Part of the fun, particularly in this town, comes from Holmes' allusions to show business. Erica's name is an homage to Erica Kane, Susan Lucci's soap opera character. We've all been to the performance space Larry Cedar describes admiringly with "When you walk into the theatre, you know right away what part of the room is the stage." In the Colony Theatre with its imposing rows of scarlet seats looking down on the audience as they come in, there's never any doubt.

Playwright: Rupert Holmes
Director: Simon Levy
Cast: J. Paul Boehmer, Lisa Pelikan, Larry Cedar, Samantha Raddock, Bart Del Gatto
Set Design: Desma Murphy
Lighting Design: Kathi O'Donohue
Costume Design: Shon LeBlanc
Sound Design: Drew Dalzell
Wig/Hair Design: Joni Rudesill
Running Time: Two hours fifteen minutes with one intermission
Running Dates: February 12-March 13, 2005
Where: The Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank. Phone: (818) 558-7000
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on.February 12.
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