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Friday, July 5, 2013
“Black Comedy” requires suspension of disbelief by patrons, but they’re in for 90 minutes of fun once they get used to the idea that light is dark and dark is light in Peter Shaffer’s durable farce.
A lively Star City Playhouse production of the one-act show continues through July 14 at the Metropolitan Community Church in southeast Roanoke.
Shaffer, who’s better known for “Amadeus,” “Equus” and “Royal Hunt of the Sun,” debuted “Black Comedy” in 1965 at the Chichester Festival Theater in his native England. It came to New York in 1967. Over the years it has featured such stage luminaries as Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, Geraldine Page and Lynn Redgrave.
The play is set at night in the London apartment of struggling sculptor Brindsley Miller. He and his fiancee, Carol Melkett, are preparing for what they hope will be a lucrative visit by millionaire art collector Georg Bamberger.
In order to dress up the shabby apartment, Brindsley and Carol have “borrowed” certain valuable furnishings from the neighboring apartment of Harold Goringe. He’s out of town and none the wiser. Carol’s father, a bombastic retired army colonel whom Brindsley understandably despises, also is expected.
Before anyone arrives, however, the apartment is blackened by a power failure. It remains that way for most of the rest of the show, but the imaginary darkness soon becomes just one of Brindsley’s worries.
An upstairs neighbor, Miss Furnival, invites herself in because she’s afraid of the dark and soon gets happily drunk. Goringe, owner of the purloined furnishings, returns unexpectedly early. Bamberger and an electrician named Schuppanzigh show up and are confused for one another. Most troublesome of all is the arrival of Clea, a longtime lover of Brindsley’s who is not pleased to learn that he is engaged to Carol.
The characters stumble about, groping furniture and sometimes each other, as Brindsley struggles to keep everything from falling apart. The stage is brightly lit for the most part so that the audience can enjoy the comic goings-on, though it is understood by the audience to be pitch-black in the apartment.
“Black Comedy” is demanding of its cast, requiring not only sharp timing and complex stage business but a credible representation of people fumbling about in the dark. They must also deal with the fact that Metropolitan Community Church, while admirably welcoming of the company, is challenging as a theatrical venue.
Director Marlow Ferguson and his intrepid actors handle everything adroitly and with admirable verve, however. Stephen Baltz stands out in the demanding role of Brindsley, the harried sculptor, and Chris Reidy is consistently amusing as the neighbor Goringe.
They are ably supported by Lindsey Owens as Carol, Sherry Wedemeyer as Miss Furnival, Phil Boyd as Colonel Melkett, Brandi Suber as Clea and Taylor Radley as Schuppanzigh. The small role of Bamberger is handled by director Ferguson himself.
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