A PROPER MANBy Steven Young
Directed by Ashley Rountree
Stage Manager/Prop Designer–John Harvey
Sound Designer/Artistic Director-Kurt Kleinmann
Lighting Designer–Sam Nance
Scenic Designer/Technical Director –Maxim Overton
Costume Designer –Michael A. Robinson
Producer –Leslie Patrick
Asst. Producer/Board Operator –Christian Schmoker
Volunteer Coordinator –Rachel Rouse
Executive Director –Barbara Weinberger
Natalia Borja-Nell Gwyn
Lauren Floyd-Margaret Hughes
Kevin Fuld-Stephen Kickhim, Esq.
David Helms-Reverend Able Bender
Chris Messersmith-Jailer Spotty
Robert San Juan-Knobby
Michael Speck-King Charles II
Nathan Willard-Dick Wilkins
Reviewed Performance: 8/10/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The setting is “the Clink,” London’s oldest prison, in the year 1660. An impressive array of instruments of torture are mounted on the walls, which like the floor are painted to replicate rough hewn stones. Juxtaposed with this foreboding setting is a soundtrack of Monty Python songs prior to curtain.
The play that unfolds is definitely of the Monty Python nature. Chris Messersmith provides a remarkably believable performance as Jailer Spotty, wielding the tools of his latrine-cleaning trade. His character is soon joined by Stephen Kickhim, Esquire (Kevin Fuld) and the Reverend Able Bender (David Helms).
Helms’ character takes a definitely funny turn, and he proves to be perfectly cast. Helms is earnest instead of hamming it up, and it’s a simply wonderful performance.
Fuld is also great in his role as the exacerbated playwright surrounded by a confederacy of dunces (he must actually ask the question, “Are you really going to sick a pack of wild dogs on your friend Fluffy?”). As Kickhim, Fuld plays the ninth favorite playwright and poet of King Charles II. Fuld seemingly effortlessly delivers tongue-twister riffs and can also play it straight when required. “I love collaboration, just not everyone else having an opinion,” Kickhim explains.
As the inmates, Gordon Fox, Robert San Juan, and Nathan Willard are all very funny. Fox is particularly convincing in reciting the unlikely family history of his character, “Fluffy.”
Lauren Floyd as England’s first female actress (“the eighth seal of the apocalypse” at that time), and Natalia Borja as the King’s libertine mistress, are both delightful. The chemistry between Floyd and Fuld works notwithstanding the trite, yet comical, set up. There are many notable high points in this play’s rich dialogue, but my favorite is when those two “shoot the dozens” (aka trade insults) with elaborately disgusting metaphors (a menstruating baboon is mentioned; one has to give points for originality there).
Michael Speck as King Charles II is hilarious. He flounces around in vainglorious abandon and accomplishes the feat of convincing you that the King, while not mean-spirited, is nonetheless capable of bestowing upon his subjects a life of wealth, or an agonizing death, depending upon his whim. And, Speck and Borja have great chemistry when planning an orgy together.
The play includes many jokes about theater, and I adored the pot-shots at Cats the musical (you’re right, Mr. Young, so right).
Elaborate period costumes are visual feasts and provide a fun variety, from rags on a prisoner to the King’s crown and curly wig. The sound effects are funny, and the effective light design provides a romantic scene-within-a-scene toward the end.
If you do not have a silly bone, then this production is probably not your cup of tea. We had a great time and were impressed by the entire production and certainly the consistently strong cast.
My friend and I also enjoyed the venue. The seating at the Bath House is roomy and comfortable; there was plenty of free parking; and, the balcony overlooking White Rock Lake was a delightful spot to spend Intermission.
August 9 through 25, 2018
Bath House Cultural Center
521 E. Lawther Dr. Dallas, Texas 75218 • White Rock Lake
For information and Tickets call 214 821 6005 or go to http://pegasustheatre.org/.