Plaza Theatre Company
Directed by JaceSon P. Barrus
Stage Management – Stefanie Glenn
Costume Design – Stacey Greenwalt
Sound Design – G. Aaron Siler
Light Design – Cameron Barrus
Set Design – JaceSon P. Barrus
Property Design – Milette Siler
Special Effects – Levi King
Eric Swan – JaceSon P. Barrus
Linda Swan – Kristi Mills
Norman McDonald – G. Aaron Siler
Mr. Jenkins – Russ B. Walker
Uncle George – Jay A. Cornils
Sally Chessington – Kristi Taylor
Dr. Chapman – Steven Lindsay
Mr. Forbright – Nathan Glenn
Ms. Cowper – Stacey Blanton
Miss. Brenda Dixon – Stacey Greenwalt
Photo Credit: Stacey Greenawalt
Reviewed Performance 1/11/2014
Reviewed by Amy Thurmond, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Imagine the most creative yet convoluted story you can muster. Intertwine the lives of several people (most of who do not exist). Make up an ailment of some sort for each - consider their families, their professions. Add to those details secret bits of juicy information and a slightly daffy lodger entering stage right at precisely the most inopportune time. Now, imagine being put on the spot to tell that tale over and over again, “creating”as you go, because all of the “details”, save a handful of actual tales already told are, at present, in question by local authorities who have just arrived in your living room.
Sound like a zany bit of everyday lunacy? Well, maybe not for us all, but this is most certainly the pickle of a predicament to be found in Plaza Theatre Company’s production of Cash on Delivery. Playwright Michael Cooney presents a piece of material solely intended to be taken tongue in cheek, and that is certainly what PTC’s audience gets!
Lights up on a simple living room, home to Eric and Linda Swan. A select few pieces of furniture, colorful flower arrangements, throw pillows and warm lighting dressed the stage effectively to suggest a charming and cozy English rooming house. Several entrances led to suggested rooms in other parts of the home and were well utilized in design. Staging was logical for the most part. However, there was one entire area of the stage, set around the big window with a fabulous window seat, which seemed somewhat orphaned. Minimal action of any kind took place within that area (one incident not withstanding). Considering the charming design of the window/window seat combination, one might have expected to see some of the action flow in that direction. The fundamental layout of Plaza Theatre Company’s performance space legitimately warranted the use of wireless mics. However, there were numerous moments throughout the show where the speakers, by way of shrieks, shrills, screams and the exasperated lines, actually pained the audience. Granted, at the reviewed performance, roars of laughter often followed those moments.
Straight away, the tone of the play is set with a telephone conversation between Eric Swan and the Department of Social Security. As Swan struggles to juggle the interruptions of his wife, Linda, and his lodger, Norman, his phone call spirals desperately out of control and sets the audience up for what proves to be a wild ride, indeed!
At the top of the show, Swan and Norman both enter stage sans shoes. This simple decision seemed an effective one, inviting audience members into the Swans’ home. The action of the play is swift, almost urgent, and a great deal of set up is delivered immediately to the audience. Pay attention! The tempo was maintained throughout at such an extremely high rate it was as if the actors were clocked to the second on delivery and pick up of lines, entrances and exits. To that end, the cast performed well, not missing too many queues, never allowing too long a breath between lines. There was a great deal of desperation and utter confusion portrayed by every actor who entered, and the audience welcomed every instance with full on laughter. Unfortunately, that constant high speed tempo left no room for shading or inflection.
The cast, as a whole, gave a passionate and entertaining performance, peppered with a few breaks in character but filled with a united desire to bring a smile. JaceSon P. Barrus portrayed Eric Swan with a nervous ease (isn’t that a contradiction). He carried the weight of the dialogue and did so with true know-how. There was no arc, however, in Barrus’ portrayal. I did get a hint of the desperation that Mr. Swan feels, and Barrus reached the audience on that level. But more often than not, his single expression was that of being utterly flabbergasted. Regardless, Mr. Barrus knew how to deliver a line and work the room, and that garnered him a ton of well-earned laughs.
Kristi Mills as Linda Swan looked smashing in her tailored and bright ensemble. Mills used her facial expressions fabulously, pulling and pouting to the audience’s delight. Her character development, however, left this reviewer begging for more depth. Mills had plenty of material to work with for such development, but as was mentioned previously, the tempo maintained simply did not leave room for the actor to explore those emotions related to pace.
Russ B. Walker and Kristi Taylor, who portrayed Mr. Jenkins and Sally Chessington respectively, brought new urgency and silliness into play. Though both were on quite different journeys throughout the play, Walker and Taylor kept the joint lively in all of their scenes. Mr. Jenkins’ sparkly tie was a special touch and caught my attention. Sally was a very maternal source of some comfort the crazier things got…until it got so crazy even her she seemed in need of her mommy! Portraying Dr. Chapman, Steven Lindsay seemed a perfect fit in his role. His meek demeanor played well into the crazy! At times, however, that push-push-push pace seemed to push-push-push him over, leaving him an afterthought. There was great potential in the character of Dr. Chapman, and I believe Mr. Lindsay had the skill to pull it off. He just needed time to breathe and be seen!
By far, the standout performance of the evening was that of G. Aaron Siler as the Swans’ lodger, Norman McDonald. His physical comedy, use of facial expressions, and resounding voice stood out far above his peers. Siler seized every possible opportunity to get a laugh, and the laughs came in a genuine fashion. I could see how the character of Norman could be played mildly, meek almost. But the choice (whether by Director Barrus, Siler himself or a joint decision) to play him over the top was genius! While most everyone in the cast enjoyed special moments of laughter, Siler was awarded with laugh after laugh after laugh. He was cartoonish at times and even childlike. Whatever the moment, Siler truly attacked it!
Jay A. Cornils, as Uncle George, was quite humorous and a nice bit of goofy. While he was lacking an English accent (it’s possible, of course), Cornils looked dashing in his slicker and even more so in his undies! At times, Eric, Norman and Uncle George reminded me of the Three Stooges and their hijinks! Stacey Greenwalt as Brenda, burst in full of emotional energy and had no problem keeping pace with the rest of the cast. Nathan Glenn as Mr. Forbright and Stacey Blanton Ms. Cowper rounded out a nice ensemble cast. Glenn had moments where a single glance or raised eyebrow garnered a laugh. Blanton, while clearly attempting to portray an uptight, unbending protector of the Department of Social Security against fraud, was difficult to understand and maintained a stance with her hands on her hips which seem somewhat off-putting. She redeemed her performance, however, with the last bit of her time on stage.
Though the audience seemed exhausted by the end of the show, the measure of laughter throughout the night clearly showed that Plaza Theatre Company’s production of Cash on Delivery is worthy of your laughter and your time!
CASH ON DELIVERY
Plaza Theatre Company
111 S. Main St. Cleburne, TX 76033
Runs through Saturday, January 25th
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Saturdays at 3:00pm
Tickets prices are $15.00, seniors(65+)/students $14.00, and children (12 and under) $13.00. Group rates are available.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.plaza-theatre.com or call their box office at 817.202.0600