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Theater Review: A Vortex Of Action At TheatreWorks New Milford

By Elizabeth Young, Newtown Bee


NEW MILFORD — Ken Ludwig's Leading Ladies opened on September 25, at TheatreWorks New Milford, to a full house of entertained theatergoers. This outrageous bit of farcical hijinks left the audience laughing to the point of guffaws as the tempo picked up and the ruse was on.

Traveling actors Leo Clark (Hal Chernoff) and Jack Gable (Rob Pawlikowski) are totally down on their luck, talent and, literally, their last dollar. Bemoaning their circumstances, Leo comes across a newspaper article which sets their scheme in motion.

Apparently a very rich old lady is about to die and desperately seeking her erstwhile nieces so she can hand over their inheritance. Florence, the moribund old lady, played by Mary Wilson, has not seen her nieces in decades.

This all sounds perfect to Leo. Jack not so much, yet Leo persuades him to play along in a scam to score dear, old Florence's money.

Florence has another niece, Meg Snider (Carey Van Hollen), who is also eligible for a chunk of change when her auntie passes. Demure and yet inspired, Meg is engaged to the Reverend Duncan Woolery (Daniel Basiletti). The good reverend is rigid while displaying a jittery concern when it comes to Aunt Flo's money.

Florence's small town physician, Dr Meyers (Ron Dukenski), practices well outside the boundaries of protocol and is hilariously missing some pretty basic skills. His son Butch (Edwin Arce II) is a bundle of busy as he pines for the lovely, if goofy, local roller skate waitress, Audrey (Victoria Calamito).

While all performances are very, very good, there is a rave in this review. Carey Van Hollen, whom I have seen before as an amazing actor, singer and puppeteer in Avenue Q, is as skilled and graceful a performer as I have come across. She portrays her naïve Meg with a multitude of layers and emotions, managing this in the context of the broadest of comedy. Ms Van Hollen is completely believable, earnestly portraying composure, excitement and humor in the midst of the mayhem.

Rob Pawlikoski is just dynamite in his turn as the cross dressing Jack. He displays a fabulous physicality for this slapstick style of comedy with spot on timing. He is a riot.

His partner in the fraud, Hal Chernoff is also a whirlwind of energy and silly.

Ron Dukenski's not very good doctor is a skirt chaser with a stethoscope. Mr Dukenski is a very engaging actor.

Playing the doctor's son, Edwin Arce II is a handsome hunk of burning love for Audrey. He claims in his bio that he is even more handsome in real life, and he is. Edwin brings a youthful vibe with a willingness to truly play along.

As the object of Butch's affections, Victoria Calamito plays Audrey with animation and verve. Daniel Basiletti plays the no nonsense reverend with an undercurrent of ulterior motive perfectly. And last, yet essential, Mary Wilson is just wonderful as the cranky, but sort of adorable, Florence.

The clever direction of Michael Bolinski creates a vortex of action which spins faster and faster as the plot unfolds. The staging, on a magnificent set designed by Judy Tringali, is superb. The costumes designed by Susan Aziz are excellent, adding much to the madness.

If you are interested in a rollicking romp — and who isn't? — this is the place to be. Shed your cares and head to TheatreWorks for a sidesplitting good time.

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