The Column Online



By Michael McKeever

Runway Theatre

Directed by Emily-Ann Moriarty-Phillips
Assistant Director – Laurie Grissom
Stage Manager – Chuck Barlow
Set Design – Emily-Ann Moriarty-Phillips
Costume Design – Amber Sebastian
Sound Design – Linda Fullhart
Lighting Design – Emily-Ann Moriarty-Phillips
Board Operator – Rachel Poole
Backstage Crew – Adrian Gonzales & Noah Kozakis
Prop Design – Laurie Grissom & Emily-Ann Moriarty-Phillips

Bernard S. Dunlap – Greg Kozakis
Claudia McFadden – Misty Baptiste
Athena Sinclair – Karen Jordan
Murphy – Devan Rose
Pippet – Cory Carter
Francis – Jacob Hess
Otis – Chuck Barlow
Mrs. Everett P. Osgood – Patsy Daussat
Dora del Rio – Laura Lester
Mr. Boodles – Lord Paco Tehrani Daussat

Reviewed Performance: 7/27/2019

Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

As I entered the theatre at last Friday’s performance at Runway Theatre of “Suite Surrender, I was enchanted by the set designed by Emily-Ann Moriarty-Phillips, who also directed the show. It shows us the main living area of a grand suite in the Palm Beach Royale Hotel. With a baby grand piano, comfortably stylish chairs and marble gracing the bar, the floor and the telephone alcove, we are seeing the best that the hotel has to offer. Surely only the most vaunted of celebrities would be allowed the stay in a palace such as this.

Then I saw the doors, five of them, and then I knew that I was about to be taken into the world of mistaken identities, disappearing and re-appearing items, and frenzied entrances and exits accompanied by door slamming that is the farce. Runway theatre takes us to the year 1942, just after the United States entered World War II, and presents us with the promise of a night of outrageous comedy. Though they make the journey with a few fits and starts, the cast and crew of “Suite Surrender” ably deliver on that promise.

As stated before, we are taken to 1942 Palm Beach where ‘The Palm Beach Ladies for Unity’ (the acronym becomes a running gag), represented by Mrs. Everett P. Osgood (Patsy Daussat) are hosting “A Night of a Thousand Stars”, a night of entertainment for the members of the armed forces at the Palm Beach Royale Hotel. Despite the damage to the hotel caused by the Army at the previous event, the manager of the hotel, Bernard S. Dunlap (Greg Kozakis) gamely prepares to host the sailors of the Navy and is taking great pains to accommodate the talent for the night, particularly the actresses Claudia McFadden (Misty Baptiste) and Athena Sinclair (Karen Jordan). These two divas have a running feud and must be kept as far away from each other as possible.

The plan is to put Claudia McFadden in the Presidential suite, the room we see bellboys Francis (Jacob Hess) and Otis (Chuck Barlow) preparing at the beginning of the play, and Athena Sinclair is to be taken to the Admiral suite on the other side of the building. All arrangements have been made to make sure the two women do not lay eyes on each other. As Claudia McFadden arrives at the suite with her long-suffering assistant, Pippet (Cory Carter) and her dog Mr. Boodles (Lord Paco Tehrani Daussat), the plan seems to be working perfectly. But this is a farce, and as we are soon to find out, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley’ (Thank you, Robert Burns). These are fancy words for ‘all Hell breaking loose’.

Of course, Athena Sinclair and her assistant Murphy (Devon Rose) enter the suite and set up shop. And then the action begins. The manager and Murphy, an old flame of the bellboy Francis, struggle to keep the divas apart. White roses are replaced with pictures which are replaced by white roses and so on. Red roses end up delivered to the wrong person, Luggage is carried back and forth, and Mr. Boodles is passed from person to person like a hot potato. As an added fly in the ointment, a tabloid reporter, Dora del Rio (Laura Lester), is lurking about to dig up dirt on the two actresses. Also, the sailors staying at the hotel are setting fires, conducting battle maneuvers in the lobby, and jumping into the pool off the fourth-floor balcony.

All of this should result in non-stop laughter. And for most of the second act it does. The show does have some pacing problems in the first act. Everything we see in Act One is setup for the next one and it needs to run along at a fast clip. Some of the line pick-ups were a touch slow and some of the internal pacing for certain characters was a bit sluggish. This made the act drag a little and deaden some of the laughs. The actors were still compelling. It just felt that the first act needed a bit more crispness.

Second act brings the energy that should drive the whole play. Director Emily-Ann Moriarty-Phillips stages the action well and the cast revels in the broadness of emotions and physical comedy we get to see. Each person gets a chance to shine amid all the craziness and together they bring the play to a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion.

Amber Sebastian has designed a wide range of costumes to fit the period. From the hotel manager’s silk suit to the fur trimmed dressing gown of Claudia echoes the time and makes everyone look appropriate to their character, and the set, designed by Ms. Moriarty-Phillips embodies the elegance of a class hotel.

As the manager of the Palm Beach Royale, Greg Kozakis is wonderful to watch. He begins the show with total confidence, and it is so much fun watching him dissolve into hysteria. Mr. Kozakis has a fine sense of comic timing and delivers his lines with precision.

Matching him in outrageousness Is Cory Carter as Pippet and Laura Lester as Dora del Rio. Ms. Carter starts as the downtrodden assistant to Claudia Mc Fadden with head held down and her face etched with resignation. But as the situation whirls out of control and she drinks more to try to steady her nerves, she becomes a marvel to watch and is so funny. Laura Lester’s character starts out as a standard, shady journalist but as she gets physically involved in the ensuing insanity, she reveals herself as a lovely physical comic.

Misty Baptiste as Claudia McFadden and Karen Jordan as Athena Sinclair are appropriately grand and catty as the warring divas. Ms. Baptiste is properly dramatic and demanding as the over-bearing Claudia. She spends her time deriding her assistant and drinking pitchers of martinis (It fits that her dog is named after a brand of gin), and Ms. Baptiste embraces the character with joy. Karen Jordan’s Athena is no less demanding but instead of gin, her enjoyment follows a more erotic direction. Ms. Jordan nails it.

Devon Rose as Murphy and Jacob Hess are appropriately attractive and pleasant as the romantic couple caught up in the wildness. Chuck Barlow give the right amount of denseness and naivete to the character of Otis and Patsy Daussat plays Mrs. Everett P. Osgood with exaggerated haughtiness, befitting her character.

Special recognition goes to Lord Paco Tehrani Daussat as Mr. Boodles. I have never seen a little dog passed around so much and handling the action like a professional. He is very cute, and that is an asset for any actor.

I know that as the production progresses that many of the issues I spoke of in this review will resolve themselves. There is no better road to improvement than repetition. And the second act proves that the cast has the chops to make this play work.

So, step back in time and into the Presidential Suite of the Palm Beach Royale and join Runway Theatre for “Suite Surrender”. There are laughs to be had. And laughter, after all, is the best medicine.

Runway Theatre
July 26 – August 11, 2019
Friday & Saturday – 8:00PM
Sunday – 3:00PM
215 N Dooley St, Grapevine TX 76051
For more tickets and more information call 817-488-4842
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