A RED PLAID SHIRTby Michael G Wilmot
Directed by – John Wilkerson
Set Design – Rodney Dobbs
Lighting Design – Andrew Makepeace
Costume Design – Dallas Costume Shoppe
Props Design – Susan Shaw
Stage Manager – Sienna Riehle
Russell Harris – Marty Sommers
Lucia Welch – Deb Sommers
David Noel – Fred Baxter
Nancy Lamb – Gladys Baxter
Reviewed Performance: 5/11/2019
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Marty Sommers is six months into his retirement from teaching English, and he feels lost. His wife Deb is understandably frustrated at his having become a permanent fixture on their sofa, yet she isn’t frustrated enough to let him go nuts and buy a motorcycle. Their best friends Fred and Gladys Baxter are handling their retirement in a somewhat different way, as Fred has become a complete hypochondriac/germophobe, and Gladys just wants to spend her sunset years traveling...and it appears that neither the twain shall meet.
As Marty, Russell Harris makes a most likeable protagonist as he conveys the entire gamut of emotion throughout the play. We sympathize with his lack of self sans career and cheer him on as he tries to find his purpose in life while still appeasing his wife. Harris gives us a very strong performance. He is more than ably partnered with the talented Lucia Welch, who portrays the sympathetic wife beautifully, with just the right amount of sweet and sassy. She, too, gets to demonstrate her range of emotions as Deb, and does so likeably and believably.
David Noel gets the most comedic role in the play as the neurotic Fred, and he also changes the most throughout. Noel goes from hyper and annoying at the beginning to relaxed and confident by the end, and does so gradually and smoothly. Nancy Lamb plays his wife Gladys, who appears to have been dealing with quite a big change in her husband since his retirement a year and a half previously, and she leans quite a bit on Deb for moral support. The two women have some great chemistry as best friends, and Lamb also has some nice moments with Noel.
With such a small cast, this show’s success depends greatly on the ensemble work of its actors, and in that regard it works quite well. These four are all obviously pros and give the audience realistic portrayals, and they are deftly directed by John Wilkerson. Some of his blocking is a bit unnatural, but he gets excellent performances out of everyone.
Theatre Frisco also made the most of the design elements for this show. Rodney Dobbs’ beautiful living room set was perfect, and the costumes provided by Dallas Costume Shoppe worked well. I especially liked the cast all appearing in red plaid shirts at curtain call. Susan Shaw’s props were appropriate for a modern setting, and while there were a few dark spots here and there in Andrew Makepeace’s lighting design, it worked well overall, too. A heinous omission in the program, in my opinion, is that of who designed the sound for the show, for all of the music used between scenes was absolutely perfect, yet no one was credited. I heard several audience members comment on this as well.
My problem with the show had nothing to do with Theatre Frisco’s production. Wilmot’s script is extremely choppy, containing a large number of short scenes. This made it hard to get into the flow of the story and the performances, and it’s not the type of show where the scenes can morph into one another via lighting effects. There really do need to be blackouts between the scenes, which slows down the action considerably. There seemed to be a few too many storylines, too. There were some very nice moments and lots of laughs, and I will say that while I liked the concept of the play, the script itself is just weak.
Theatre Frisco’s audience, however, is perfect for a comedy about retirement, as they have a huge following from many of the retirement villages in the area, and many of their patrons were obviously relating to the events unfolding onstage. The performance I attended was sold out and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely...which is, in my opinion, the most important thing.
Frisco Discovery Center Black Box Theater, 8004 N. Dallas Parkway, Suite 200
Runs through May 19.
Actual days: Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm
Tickets are $14 to $22
For information and to purchase tickets, go to https://www.theatrefrisco.com/ or call the box office at (972) 370-2266.