KIND LADYBy Edward Chodorov, Adapted from a story by Hugh Walpole
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas
Director – Michael Serrecchia
Scenic Design – Clare DeVries
Costume Design – Michael Robinson
Lighting Design – Ian Garland
Sound Design – Rob Stephens
Stage Manager – Cathy Parks Bardin
Properties – Jo Anne Hull
Ada Abbott – Katy Beckermann
Gustav Rosenberg – Robby Dullnig
Rose – Caitlin Duree
Mrs. Edwards – Lisanne Haram
Mr. Edwards – Francis (Hank) Henry
Peter Santard – Cam Kirkpatrick
Phyllis Glenning – Laura L. Jones
Aggie Edwards – Gabby Nero
Henry Abbott – Andreas Robichaux
Mr. Foster – Dave Schmidt
Doctor – David Smith
Mary Herries – Mary Tiner
Lucy Weston – Lucia Welch
Reviewed Performance: 3/11/2016
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The set, designed by Clare DeVries is magnificent. The main room of what is described as a three story house dominates the front of MILC's massive stage. Upstage there is room for a hallway, a set of stairs upstage of that, and an alcove for a candelabra decoration upstage of the stairway. Fine, period appropriate, furniture highlighted by soft blue walls of the box set and a chandelier in the foyer set the scene for the play beautifully. Amongst the patrons after the reviewed performance, the set was the number one piece complimented.
Ian Garland made bold choices with the lighting design. Where having a single setting for the house interior would suffice, Garland makes a statement by changing the lighting tint when the character of Henry Abbott enters the room. It is unclear what that statement is but the cooler colors are certainly noticeable.
The concept of this production borders on melodrama but lacks the exaggerated characters. With that in mind the sound design of Rob Stephens is often used to heighten the tension in or punctuate a scene. Stephens' choice of background music is superb and a very effective tool in scene building.
Michael Robinson's costume design is exceptional with period appropriate style and fit for all of the characters. The one misstep may be Laura L. Jones' floral patterned dress that drapes on her body like a sack. Mary Tiner's multiple costume changes help emphasizes her descent in terror by changing from smart plain colored dresses to brightly patterned robes, while Mr. Abbot's clothes change from shabby homeless man to smart business man, as he sells Ms. Harries' art, to ending with a slight dishevelment as his plan falls apart in the final scene.
Mary Tiner is the eponymous kind lady, Mary Herries. Unfortunately for Ms. Tiner, Mary Herries is not a substantial character. The part is substantial in size and stage time but not in character development or interest. It is most likely the poor script that fails to engage the audience's sympathy for the character. Ms. Tiner does great at portraying terror as the plot unfolds and delivering the complex upper class British dialogue.
The wicked Henry Abbot is played by Andreas Robichaux. Robichaux is allowed to explore his sinister side with plenty of snide looks and cruel manners. He appears cool and even tempered, rarely raising his voice, but unleashes flashes of rage when those around him are too chaotic, like his simpleton wife's, Ada, constant dancing. He is truly the one to keep an eye on whenever he is on stage.
The Edwards family is Henry Abbot's gang of accomplices, along with his wife Ada. The three members of the Edwards family are Mr. Edwards, played by Francis (Hank) Henry, Mrs. Edwards, played by Lisanne Haram, and their daughter Aggie, played by Gabby Nero. The trio excels at demonstrating their characters lower class style with North London accents, as opposed to Henry Abbot's more posh accent. Also, Henry and Haram are good at non-verbally communicating intimidation to Ms. Herries with mean looks and heavy movements. Nero has the looks to play the daughter of Henry and Haram but not quite young enough to pass for the apparent age of Aggie Edwards, a hyper-active child with endless curiosity.
Ms. Herries failed support system includes her niece, Phyllis Glenning, Phyllis' husband, Peter Santard, Mary's maid, Rose, and her best friend, Lucy Weston. All, like Ms. Tiner, are well coached with the near archaic language with only minor line flubs. Laura L. Jones and Cam Kirkpatrick as Phyllis and Peter are a cute couple playing flirtatious games with each other in the context of the script. Public displays of affection are not a British characteristic but we are treated to a fun scene of the two embracing while pretending to introduce each other to their new relatives. Caitlin Duree is believable as a devoted servant to Ms. Herries but truly shines when displaying her disgust, through less refined movement, and fear, with facial expressions and tense body, of Mr. Abbot.
Kind Lady is a difficult play to sit through for a modern audience. The writing format has been out of style for decades and the British formalities and nonsense dialogue often makes scenes drag. However, the actors give a dazzling display of talent throughout and the set is amazing. If you have a need for a good, old fashioned, thriller head to Irving for this production.
Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas, 3333 N MacArthur Blvd. Irving, TX 75062
Runs through March 26th
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:30pm, Tickets are $21.00 to $28.00 for adults
For tickets and info go to http://www.irvingtheatre.org or call their box office at (972) 252-2787.