The Column Online


by Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert
Based on the French Farce MOUMOU by Jean de Letraz

Pocket Sandwich Theatre

Directed by LisaAnne Haram
Stage Manager/Assistant Director ? Phineas Bennett
Set Design - Rodney Dobbs
Costume Design - Phineas Bennett
Lighting Design - Jeff Vance
Properties - Theresa Vance
Sound Design - David H.M. Lambert
Lighting Director - Phil White
Sound Technician - Tony Banda
Carpenters - Tim Rogers, Glenn Struble & Daniel Bembenek

Chris Briseno - Inspector Legrand
Andrew Dillon - George Chauvinet
Emily Henderson - Babette Latouche
Dennis G.W. Millegan - Leonard Jolijoli
Shannon Rasmussen - Claudine Amour
Trista Wyly - Yvonne Chauvinet
Tony Wynn - Jacques

Reviewed Performance: 3/3/2011

Reviewed by Clyde Berry, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

There?s nothing like a good farce to help one forget the troubles of the week. A good door slammer full of high energy, eccentric characters, ridiculous situations, near misses, and hilarity can be quite the way to blow of the stress of the week. If the craziness of a Noises Off or Don?t Dress for Dinner is the thing, then Pocket Sandwich Theatre?s latest offering, Pajama Tops, is in the same vein.

Pajama Tops is the adaptation of the French Farce MouMou, in which George Chauvinet is trying to arrange a weekend alone with his mistress. Things get complicated when an old school chum arrives, having been mugged and needing a place to stay. Further complications ensue when George?s wife, in an attempt to help, invites the mistress over for dinner, thinking she is a business contact from George?s work. Throw in a sexy and fame seeking maid, an eager detective, and jealous husband, and all the pieces are in place for hilarious disasters.

LisaAnne Haram directed this piece with the knowledge and precision of one who truly understands comedy. The tone is even and appropriate, the characterizations are on target, and the storytelling is clear. Comedy of this type is a very precise and unforgiving art, and Haram?s vision is clear and well planned.

The cast, as a whole, is up to the challenges of the script; everyone has the same level of slightly exaggerated character needed for the piece, and listen well to each other. Things move along at a brisk pace and lots of laughs are to be had, even when we see something coming. The problem is, with so much going so well, when a flat line is delivered, it sucks the life out of a scene, and the momentum has to be built again. Perhaps these moments come from having a weekend off, the run of the show wearing on, or just a less experienced performer. These moments, while not frequent, are prevalent enough to be disappointing, and keep this production from being the funny show to mention to friends, and the side splitting show one goes back to, bringing friends. For whatever reasons these speed bumps are being hit, the show is still solid and enjoyable.

Andrew Dillon as George Chauvinet, the cheating husband, has a bright, clear voice, and lots of justifiable nervous twitchy energy. Dillon does well to hold the show together and goes just far enough with extremes to not go too far. If anything, he could relax just a bit in the opening scene as we get the plot rolling. Dillon?s character is much put upon and he does well reacting both physically and vocally without giving the winks and nudges it would be easy to fall prey to in this type of show.

As Yvonne Chauvinet, Trista Wyly is the cool balance to George?s increasing paranoia and panic. Wyly is at her best when she conspires with the other ladies in the show, pitting the girls against the boys.

The mistress, Babette Latouche, is played by Emily Henderson. Henderson ?s character is the one who gets things really moving plot-wise with her arrival. Her Babette brightens when she?s plotting, and boils when she?s put upon. Henderson has much potential, but it would be nice to see more of her character?s decisions made instead of simply executed.

While she may not have much stage time, Claudine Amour, played by Shannon Rasmussen, has a definite presence in the piece. As suggested by her name, Claudine is singularly obsessed with becoming a professional coquette. Much of her business involves posing and prancing, which she does well, and the bits are funny. While the staged bits work, Rasmussen could get even more mileage in her other scenes by still ?practicing? her provocative nature.

Looking to crack the big case he?s working on, Chris Briseno brings an appropriate amount of menace to the scenes he?s in as Inspector Legrand. Like Claudine Amour, he?s concerned with advancing his career at any cost. While his scenes are few, Briseno keeps things moving and does well setting up his own running gags, as well as others.

As Jacques, who further complicates the plot in ways that would spoil the evening if told, Tony Wynn adds the last bit of wackiness to the story. Wynn stomps, sulks, and stalks about the stage conveying his characters emotions quite clearly.

The audience favorite, and cast standout, is Dennis G. W. Millegan as Leonard Jolijoli the flamboyant, eccentric, and stylish poet friend of George who is mugged and in need of help. Haram and Millegan thankfully do not resort to a ridiculous gay stereotype for this role, but create an authentic and believable person more interested in his own needs. It is a smart move not to make the cheap jokes that could easily come from this character, but to instead keep the focus on the story. Millegan handles well all the twist and turns of plot, and does the best at being spontaneous and really reacting to other characters ? getting convinced, slowly catching on to things, and trying to make things up to do damage control when things go wrong.

Everything takes place in the Chauvinet house, a lovely living room set designed by Rodney Dobbs. In the small space, the scenic painting for an outside balcony and skyline are quite effective. The rag rolled walls of the main room are particularly nice, blended with a basic but thorough light design by Jeff Vance.

Also of note are the fun and colorful costumes assembled by Phineas Bennett. He gives the play a fun period and has smartly given the cast costumes that will allow them the range of movement needed. It?s nice when the costumes detail the period instead of making fun of it.

While comedy is hard, the cast of this show makes things look easy. If some mindless chuckles are needed, dinner and a show at Pocket Sandwich can supply the fix.

PAJAMA TOPS by Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert
Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Through March 26, 2011

Shows are at 8:00 on Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays and 7:00pm Sunday.

Food and beverage service is available one and a half hours before show time.

Tickets are $10 Thursday; $15 Friday; $18 Saturday; and $12 Sunday.

Theatre located at 5400 East Mockingbird Lane, Suite 119, Mockingbird Central Plaza, one block east of Central Expressway.

For reservations or information, call 214-821-1860 o