The Column Online



by Jack Poppelwell

Rover Dramawerks

Directed by Carol M. Rice
Stage Manager – Shauna Holloway
Set Design – Maxim Overton
Costume Design – Shanna Gobin
Sound Design – Jason Rice
Lighting Design – Maxim Overton
Properties Design – Terrie W. Justus
Hair/Makeup Design – Shanna Gobin

David Warren – Christian R. Black
Wilkinson – Santosh Vijayakumar
Penelope Shawn – Tori Micalleti
Det. Sgt. Pidgeon – Chuck E. Moore
Henry Shawn – Jon-Paul McGowan
Helen Chandler – Avery Evangeline Baker
Lady Warren – Sue Goodner
Sir George Martin – Nate Davis

Reviewed Performance: 8/10/2017

Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Premiering in the West End in 1957, Dear Delinquent was one of the earlier plays by English songwriter and playwright Jack Poppelwell whose theatrical career stretched from 1953 to 1982, and who penned over 40 songs, some of which were recorded by Bing Crosby.

Set in an upper crust London flat inhabited by gadabout David Warren, Dear Delinquent traces the trail of trouble that transpires when David catches pretty Penelope plundering his flat. He soon decides to reform her, much to the chagrin of his fiancée and the suspicion of the police. And just when you think circumstances can't become more convoluted, Penelope decides that really all she wants is David.

Christian R. Black plays the perplexed David Warren with earnest jocularity. Early in the play, Black’s wide-eyed naiveté and comforting smile suggest a protective instinct toward Penelope. But these soon give way to perplexity and incredulity as Penelope slowly tips him further off balance. And, though the match-up between Penelope and David may at first seem unusual, Black enduringly conveys sweetness and steadfastness that persuades us that Penelope’s attraction to David is plausible. Black is strongest when David is aggravated into by either Penelope or her father, as the grace and good humor with which Black tempers David's frustration make for a convincing and likable character.

Tori Micalleti plays doe-eyed Penelope and instills her character with a sweetness that offsets her deviousness. Micalleti’s Penelope may have peculiar definitions of scrupulousness, but she has scads of good intentions buried beneath her artifice. Additionally, the dialogue in Dear Delinquent is filled with gentle humor, and Micalleti has great timing. The lilt of her English accent and her precise delivery and expressive mouth betray her as alternately charming, doleful, and obstinate. Micalleti’s Penelope manages to be devious yet still worthy of our affection.

Rounding out the cast are supporting characters played by a slate of talent, all of whom are effective, amusing, and settle more into their characters with every minute they're on stage. David’s long-suffering butler, Wilkinson, played with great charm by Santosh Vijayakumar, is continuously diverting, and Detective Sergeant Pidgeon, played in all his blustery and sycophantic glory by Chuck E. Moore, projects a strong stage presence and fawning adulation that make him highly memorable. A host of family members complete the cast—Penelope's father, Henry, played by Jon-Paul McGowan; David's mother, Lady Warren, played by Sue Goodner; David's uncle, Sir George Martin, played by Nate Davis; and of course, David's fiancée, Helen Chandler, played by Avery Evangeline Baker. McGowan, as Penelope's father, speaks in a lovely Irish brogue and struts so beautifully as he demonstrates his “gift of the gab” that we can easily forgive when a bit of the gab goes awry. Sue Goodner's Lady Warren simulates the perfect astonished alarm and cadence of the British elite (though the accent may slip from time to time) and is altogether endearing, and Nate Davis as Sir George is nimble and appealing with a smooth, yet brash gait and determined set of the jaw. Finally, Avery Evangeline Baker's Helen is winning and charmingly anxious as she wrestles with her suspicions. Her affection and devotion to David seem sincere, which makes Baker's Helen less caricature and more sympathetic.

The entirety of the play takes place in the living room of David's flat, which has been carefully created by Set Designer Maxim Overton. Furniture is of the polished, cherry, Queen Anne variety, punctuated by velvet fabrics, a plush fainting couch front and center. Heavy glass ashtrays, a bar adorned with a decanter and glasses for brandy, an oriental rug, and a shiny gold phonograph further complete the period look.

Perhaps most interesting, and a departure from other shows I've seen at Rover, is the application of the theatre-in-the-round. Doorways and windows float in mid-air, and the composition of the entire space is perfectly constructed for constant movement and careful blocking, which allows the actors to rapidly switch direction so they are facing different areas of the audience. In fact, the blocking (though slightly contrived in a very few moments) contributes to what is one of the most effective uses of theatre-in-the-round that I have seen.

Costuming is similarly spot-on and also extremely class-conscious. The Warrens, Sir George Martin, and Helen are each clad in smartly cut, tailored suits and sweater vests with all of the proper accessories—handkerchiefs, ties, cummerbunds, watches, jewelry, handbags, and hats. Wilkinson is similarly dressed in nicely tailored livery with classic tail coat. Conversely, the Shawns and Detective Sergeant Pidgeon are decidedly less formal. Penelope often wears capris, fitted shirts, ballet flats, and a ponytail, all of which is somewhat reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn or Kim Novak. At other times, she wears untailored, casual dresses that serve to accent her lack of guile. Her father, Henry, sports an unkempt beard, tweed vest, and button-down shirt and khakis. Detective Sergeant Pidgeon dresses similarly, except adds that ubiquitous symbol of detectives everywhere—the trench coat.

Throughout the production, lighting and sound work seamlessly, such as to effect a few blackouts, and the music played between scenes is period and fitting to the lighthearted feel of the play.

The storyline may seem a bit unlikely, but that’s the charm of this piece; it is light fare, meant to keep you amused. And Poppelwell's humor and the likable characters created by the cast make you more than willing to forgive any slight idleness. Dear Delinquent will raise few complicated questions, but you will be entertained—and by a script you may not get the chance to sample again, so infrequently is it performed.

Rover Dramawerks
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 580, Plano, TX 75023
Runs through September 2nd.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00 pm with matinees on Saturday at 3:00 pm.

Tickets for Thursdays and matinees are $16.00. Tickets for Friday and Saturday nights are $22.00. Students and seniors receive $2.00 discounts on tickets. Groups of 10 to 19 receive $2.00 off the cost of admission; groups of 20 or more receive $4.00 off the cost of admission. No late seating.

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