The Column Online



By Will Osborne & Anthony Herrera

Rover Dramawerks

Directed by Carol M. Rice
Stage Manager – Cecily Warford
Scenic Designer - Rustin Rolen
Costume Designer - Sakura Brunette
Sound Designer - Jason Rice
Lighting Designer – Catherine M. Luster
Properties Designer – Sara Jones
Fight Choreographer – Joseph L. Taylor II
Light and Sound Board Operator – Kenneth Hall
Program – Carol M. Rice
Box Office – Kim Wickware


Hamilton Orr – Kenneth Fulenwider
Barbara Orr – Laura Merchant
Clark Robinson – Chuck E. Moore
Derek Coburn – Ben Scheer
Sheriff Lumpkin – Steve Roberts

Reviewed Performance: 5/11/2018

Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Rover Dramawerks is dedicated to presenting new and rediscovered treasures that are “off the beaten path.” Smoke and Mirrors – a comedy set in a Governor’s vacation home on a private island off the Mississippi Gulf, 1991 -- certainly qualifies. This engaging production is well-paced and earns its fair share of laughs.

Prominent features of the set are a centrally placed, stocked bar, and an assortment of guns mounted on one wall. A revolver is conspicuously missing, and the reason why is immediately revealed.

Gun in hand, Hamilton Orr (Kenneth Fulenwider) kicks off this comedic romp with dramatic flair. Hamilton is the director and producer of a movie to be shot on the private island. His wife, the screenwriter, and the star make their respective appearances in the first act.

As Hamilton, Fulenwider is the type of villain you love to hate. He oozes mendacity, deftly commanding the stage like a silver-tongued devil crossed with a slimy electric eel. Fulenwider revels in his character’s eloquently expressed frustrations. Phrases like, “in his entire miserable, self-centered, narcissistic existence” roll perfectly off of his tongue. Hamilton’s I’m-surrounded-by-imbeciles impatience is very funny. And, it is a delight to watch the authoritarian composure of Fulenwider’s character slowly but surely unravelling. “I damn well will get huffy,” Hamilton ultimately bellows.

One of the thorns in Hamilton’s side is the movie star Derek Coburn, hilariously depicted in a physical performance by the handsome Ben Scheer. Before he even makes an appearance, the audience is primed to cringe at Derek’s shallow, vainglorious antics, and Scheer does not disappoint.

As the emotionally wrecked writer Clark Robinson, Chuck E. Moore excels at breathing humor into his character’s foibles. Hamilton finds just the right button to push on the vulnerable Clark. I confess to relishing the smart dialogue and quick exchanges between a domineering Hamilton and a bumbling Clark on the immorality – or lack thereof -- of plotting the demise of an incompetent, attention-grabbing fraud who destroys good writing for the sake of his soulless aggrandizement. Is it that bad to fantasize about getting rid of the prima donna destroying your work? Hamilton seduces Clark with the fantasy, but doesn’t stop there.

Hamilton is most sympathetic in his exasperation with the inept Sheriff Lumpkin (Steve Roberts). Roberts is marvelous as this southern version of “Columbo,” and he dominates much of the second act. Even when the Sheriff is inept and blundering – or simply in apologetic bad taste (“new blood – poor choice of words”) – Roberts is thoroughly likeable. You know you’re on his side, even if you’re not sure why.

Barbara Orr (Laura Merchant) is Hamilton’s mistreated wife and the movie’s publicist, although Derek treats her like his personal maid. Merchant does a good job of navigating her character’s complexities. One theme that is brought to satisfying fruition is Barbara’s penchant for elaborate metaphor. The play provides a clever dichotomy on methods of persuasion. On the one hand, Hamilton bends others to his will through bullying and appealing to their baser instincts. On the other hand, Barbara manipulates symbols: what I want you to want is what you already want, if you just look at things my way, Barbara reasons. Merchant does a great job with this material.

A visually satisfying aspect of the production is the consistently adroit use of the props: guns, booze, cocktail glasses, the Sherriff’s little black book of notes, among other papers. There is even a paper shredder.

The early 90’s costumes are convincing, with the plush sleepwear serving up particularly nice touches. The set design provides for the often dramatic entrances and exits.

Overall, Smoke and Mirrors is a fun comedy, with great dialogue, and this production zips along at a nice pace.

May 10-26, 2018
Rover Dramawerks
221 W. Parker
Suite 580
Plano, Texas 75023
For information and Tickets call 972.849.0358 or go to