The Column Online



by Liam O’Brien

Rover Dramawerks

Direction by Carol M. Rice
Stage Management by Lindsey Humphries
Sound Design by Jason Rice
Costume Design by Shanna Gobin
Lighting Design by Catherine M. Luster
Set Design/Master Carpentry by Kacy Corbett
Properties Design by Gillian Salerno-Rebic
Hair/Makeup Design by Shanna Gobin
Diction/Dialect Coaching by Yvonne Vautier-DeLay

CAST (In order of appearance.):
Emily Crow as Laurie Pennypacker
Elizabeth Drake as First Pupil
Paris Miller as Second Pupil
Cai Mason Carothers as Ben Pennypacker
Peyton Nicholson as David Pennypacker
Parker Niksich as Edward Pennypacker
Kennedy O’Kennedy as Elizabeth Pennypacker
Mary Tiner as Aunt Jane Pennypacker
Matthew Stepanek as Wilbur Fifield
Raychelle Presley as Kate Pennypacker
Julie Fackrell as Ma’ Pennypacker
Nathan May as Henry Pennypacker
Simon Nagles as Teddie Pennypacker
Bill Parr as Grampa Pennypacker
Glenn Averoigne as Quinlan
Sri Chilukuri as A Young Man
Tom McWhorter as Dr. Fifield
Doug Grace as Sheriff
Gary Anderson as Pa’ Pennypacker
Steve Niksich as Policeman

Reviewed Performance: 7/12/2013

Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Rover Dramawerks presents a thought-provoking and entertaining evening of theatre with the social comedy The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker playing at the Courtyard Theater.

The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker opened on Broadway December 30, 1953, becoming an instant hit featuring Burgess Meredith. This romantic comedy was then filmed by 20th Century Fox in 1959 with Clifton Webb in the title role.

The play O'Brien has written wants us to accept a bigamist as a sympathetic character, so he stacks the deck by setting the action of this story in the 1890s.

And then has Pennypacker espouse some "modern" ideas which were pretty radical at the time but which we now accept easily.

The interesting thing about this play is although it premiered in 1953, some of the aspects, such as the sustainable social and familial norms we readily accept and some are still relevant in our culture being discussed rather frequently in general conversation. Don’t think for a minute, however, that these topics are thrown at you in a boring history lesson type presentation. Quite the opposite occurs, with wonderfully written comedic lines and situations that allow some levity in the more emotionally intense scenes and situations.

The show is presented in the lovely Courtyard Theater in Plano. It’s a uniquely intimate space for a proscenium theatre. Originally called the Cox Gymnasium, the structure was built in 1938 as part of the Works Progress Administration project. It was converted into a theater space in 2001 and its design exemplifies the cultural and social heritage of Plano. The location is a perfect choice to present this play and it works wonderfully in this space.

Once the grand drape is opened you are presented with a spacious fixed interior set of the Pennypacker’s palatial estate in Wilmington, Delaware with plenty of detail and charm. Kacy Corbett’s design works very well on the stage and offers the actors a lot of space to move. Lovely stippled walls topped with crown molding in perfectly chosen colors of the period abound. Filling the entire main room of the home are perfectly chosen chairs, tables, settees and accent rugs. Stage right features the front porch of the home with a lovely white picket fence and working gate. Along the entire width of the stage runs a nicely proportioned sidewalk that supports outdoor and some very poignant scenes. Overall the set design is very well executed.

Direction by Carol M. Rice is top notch in the play showing her skill as a seasoned director. She uses all of the space on stage for some beautiful stage pictures as well as to create very special moments with her actors in the more intimate scenes. There are points in the show with MANY people on the stage at one time but Ms. Rice keeps the blocking balanced while never drawing focus away from the point of the scene the author is making. It is difficult at times, though, to see some of the action on the front porch that is taking place. Most of that action is “background” to the main points being delivered inside the home itself so it doesn’t really have any adverse effects on the scene or the points being made.

Shanna Gobin’s costume design is very creative and has great attention to detail paid to each actors clothing. Period pieces are always difficult to produce properly but the designs in this production are right on the mark. From the men’s suits, jackets and hats to the correct discernment of the costuming for the ages of the children (EIGHT of them from very young to young adult) and elaborate women’s dresses and shoes, every choice made is correct and visually pleasing.

Lighting design by Catherine M. Luster is simple yet very effective. The stage is bathed in wonderfully deep hues of amber and blue backlighting, creating wonderful depth on the actors and highlighting the set very well. The use of the large cyclorama behind the main set nicely shows the change of time of day, going from bright daylight washes to subtle changes to nighttime colors exactly where the script demands. Even a lovely streetlamp lights up at dusk showing the great attention to script details Ms. Luster paid attention to.

The show has a large cast of varied ages and every member performs admirably. Even the very young kids in the production show a high level of professionalism which can be hard to attain sometimes.

Every member of the cast shines and is very entertaining.

Some of the principal actors do deserve special recognition for their efforts in the show.

Bill Parr as Grampa Pennypacker is simply splendid in this role of the out-of-touch and opinionated “patriarch” of the family.

He booms on to the stage with his first introduction and never once disappoints you with his characterizations and acting ability. Mr. Parr commands the stage as an actor AND as the character yet knows how to deftly pull back when he is not the primary focus. He is truly a pleasure to watch on stage!

Ma’ Pennypacker, played by Julie Fackrell, is another stellar actor in this production. She draws you into the emotionally raw character of Ma’ and holds you in the palm of her hand every moment she is on stage. Ms. Fackrell’s comedic line deliveries are also spot-on as scripted with just the right amount of zing to make them work and not come off too campy. The character she plays runs the gamut of emotions in this show and Ms. Fackrell does nothing less than a spectacular job in emoting them all.

Gary Anderson in the title role of Pa’ Pennypacker carries his character on his shoulders with the ease of a true professional throughout the entire play. From his comedic timing in some great one-liners to the raw hurt, confusion and utter devotion to his family, Anderson never once falters and delivers a “remarkable” performance… pun intended! Congratulations on a job very, very well done!

Also delivering amazing performances in the production are the young lovers, Raychelle Presley as Kate Pennypacker and Matthew Stepanek as Wilbur Fifield.

These two young actors deliver nothing less than performance perfection throughout the evening. Their emotional connection is very easily believed, and even in the darkest despair of their relationship they portray a very believable bond of love. These two are perfectly cast and their talents shine in their respective roles.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly production that has drama, comedy, intrigue and a thought-provoking storyline, then an evening with Rover Dramawerks’ production of The Wonderful Mr. Pennypacker is exactly what you want and will definitely enjoy.

Rover Dramawerks the Courtyard Theater
1509 H Ave, Plano, TX 75074

Production runs through July 27th

Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm with one matinee Saturday July 20th at 2:00pm.

Ticket prices range from $16.00 - $20.00 with a $2.00 discount for students and seniors.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call the box office at 972-849-0358.