These ‘Leading Ladies’ are no ladies
TheatreWorks, New Milford: Leave it to Ken Ludwig to write a farce with a title that leads one to believe that the comedy is going to feature two actresses. Well, it doesn't. The thing is that the leading ladies in this show are actually male actors pretending to be women. Right from the naming of this farce, Ludwig doesn't miss an opportunity for wit. The men are Shakespearean actors. They take their work seriously and are crushed when their Scenes From Shakespeare bottoms out at a Moose Lodge event. That their last names are Clark and Gable is another example of Ludwig not missing an opportunity for fun with words.
Mind you, this play is not as funny or clever as Ludgwig's Lend Me a Tenor, but it is funny enough to keep an audience well entertained.
The production is polished thanks to the skills of Michael Bolinski. If this director's name sounds familiar, it's because he has directed top notch productions at just about all of the area's local theaters from Goshen and Thomaston, to The Gary, The Olivia and many others as well. He never shies away from a challenge, whether it's directing Waiting for Godot or Steel Magnolias. This time he takes on a farce that requires a great deal from the two leading men. It becomes obvious very quickly that this comedy has similarities to Some Like It Hot, which featured Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon playing women in order to get work as musicians. Ludwig has his two men parading as a wealthy old woman's lost nieces, but both men, just like the men in the movie, end up falling in love with female characters.
If the two men convince the dying aunt that they are her nieces, then they can inherit millions of dollars. Considering that they are penniless, they give it their all. Enter Meg, played with an extra dose of charm to win over the audience by Carey Van Hollen. Meg is engaged to be married to the Rev. Duncan Woolery played with just the right amount of arrogance and insensitivity by Daniel Basiletti. Duncan doesn't want to go to see Clark and Gable in a Shakespeare production at the Moose Lodge, which Meg has been so looking forward to.
Hal Chernoff and Rob Pawlikowski deliver fine performances dressed as women, but they really shine when they play their Shakespearean roles with great comedic panache. Ron Dukenski as the doctor who keeps thinking erroneously that Aunty is dead also does a good job as do Mary Wilson, Edwin Arce II, and Victoria Calamito.
Susan Aziz's costumes contribute significantly to the comedy with her outrageous Shakespearean renderings of Cleopatra and Hamlet. Judy Tringali's set is simply superb with a central staircase and plenty of doors that get use throughout this farce.
Overall, this is a fun-filled entertainment. It plays through Oct. 10. Box office: 860-350-6863. TheatreWorks New Milford is at 5 Brookside Avenue; website: theatreworks.us
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org