THE SECRET AFFAIRS OF MILDRED WILDby Paul Lindel
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Director: Allen Walker
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Brad Stephens
Set Design: Alex Krus
Lighting Design: Scott Davis
Costume Design: Ryan Matthieu Smith
Choreography: Jennie Jermaine
Sound Design: Allen Walker
Properties: Don Gwynne
Mildred Wild – Terry Gwynne
Roy Wild – Doug Parker
Bertha Gale – Samantha Clayborn
Helen Wild – Stefanie Glenn
Carroll Chatham – Nathan Dibben
Sister Cecilia – Karen Matheny
Miss Manley – Katreeva Phillips
Rex Bulby – Christopher D’Auria
Construction Worker – Brad Stephens
Reviewed Performance: 5/28/2016
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre has taken on the task of delivering an entertaining and funny, yet poignant tale but seems to have somewhat missed its mark.
The set itself, designed by Alex Krus is believable and effective. The cramped apartment has a small kitchen-like area with a hot plate, counter and table stage right and a bedroom area stage left. There are moving boxes and stacks of old movie magazines cluttering the apartment. At first glance, all seems to be appropriate to the action. However, being set in the 70s, one would not expect to see a 80s era television and VCR on a cart, among other things that were out of place. There was really nothing about the set that took me back in time.
Also lacking a definite link to the period was costuming by Ryan Matthieu Smith. Mildred’s husband sported beach shirts which could as easily have been modern-day as vintage. His sister, Helen, was adorned with drab dresses and long curls, which were so plain as to lack a link to any time period, specifically. Costumes during the dream sequences had clearly been carefully planned, however. These scenes included Mildred spiffy in evening gowns and the “barbeque” gown of Scarlett O’Hara. The ensemble was whimsically costumed in Raggedy Ann and Andy style togs during one of the more rambunctious dream sequences.
The ensemble clearly had fun with their characters and worked hard to deliver the script’s intriguing humor with high energy and enthusiasm. The success of this play as written depends wholly on the strength of the lead actor. In this case, Terry Gwynne as Mildred was a limiting factor. Often struggling with her lines and rote in her delivery, the action became difficult to remain engaged with. Despite this weakness, there were definitely some strong performances.
My favorite performance was that of Nathan Dibben in the role of Carroll Chatham. While his character was a supporting role, Dibben stole the show every time he graced the stage. Heartily diving into each of the diverse roles he portrayed during the dream sequences, Dibben provided most of the laughter of the evening. Whether portraying a showgirl in high heels and feathered headdress or Tarzan to Gwynne’s Jane, Dibben’s performances were spot on and genuinely fun to watch.
Doug Parker in the role of Mildred’s husband, Roy, delivered a strong performance. Adequately frustrated, devoted, and disengaged all at once, Parker’s portrayal was that of nonchalant neglect. During the dream sequences, Parker took on each role with zeal and precision, never allowing the character of Roy to show through.
Bertha Gale was neatly portrayed by Samantha Clayborn. As the landlady who is inexplicably enamored with Roy, Clayborn hilariously delivered the primal sounds and overbearing harping necessary for one of the antagonists. Clayborn’s facial expressions and comic timing during a scene involving risqué clothing caused the audience to guffaw in laughter.
Miss Manley, the interviewer, was aptly portrayed by Katreeva Phillips. With exactly the right amount of camp, Phillips added an element of counterfeit sincerity to the role. With each sidelong glance and toss of her ponytail, Phillips lightly tromped about the stage with aplomb.
While Lindel’s script had all the potential for an entertaining yet poignant tale, this production came across as absurd in places and forced in others. The chemistry between the cast members never quite connected and the shortcomings proved to be a hurdle too difficult to overcome.
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
At the Sanders Theatre/Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, Texas
Runs through June 4
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm, Saturday matinee at 2:00pm. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors, students and military, and $8 for children 12 and under Thursday and matinee; $15 adults, $12 seniors, students and military, and $10 for children 12 and under. To purchase tickets, visit www.thetart.org or call the box office at 682-231-0082.