ANOTHER show at the Gladstone? Already? Wow, those cats are really moving right along these days! Seems like just yesterday we were all waiting for the wrecking balls to start swinging and flatten the venerable old venue…and now here we are, at the third premiere in three months, and the future for this Little Italy theatre seems as bright as it’s been in years. Here’s hoping, anyhow.
It was Seven Thirty Productions‘ turn in the rotation (teamed as they are in running the Gladstone Theatre with newcomers Plosive Productions), having started the revitalization of the space back in September with THE 39 STEPS. They’re back again, still digging into comedic territory under the direction of Master Irishman John P.Kelly (this is his 20th show with 730, the company he formed in 2004, and kudos to him), with Bernard Farrell’s I DO NOT LIKE THEE, DOCTOR FELL. Excited, I donned my by-now trademark red suspenders and pinstripe pants and headed on out, eager for some Irish goodness.
As my attendance at this show was kind of a last-minute thing, I was sadly dateless (hey, I have to let Nadine Thornhill spend SOME time with her family), but I made do with a little rubbernecking of the crowd (was that Kate Drummond I saw? Seriously, I wanna know!) and small talk with the ICB (whose name is Ketra…I should be able to remember that…). Amazingly, tho, I wasn’t TOO early this time, and before long I made my way to my seat…then moved to a different seat when, in tried and true Gladstone style, someone had already decided they wanted to sit in my spot (this happens a surprising amount at the GS), and the show got underway.
DR.FELL is set in a run down room in an old building in Ireland, where a strange group therapy session is taking place. Run by bubbly American Suzy (Kelly Rigole) and her beleaguered but good-natured whipping boy Paddy (Lawrence Evenchick, the group is a lampoon of every new-agey, touchy-feely sterotype about therapy you ever did hear. Locking themselves in the room overnight to get in touch with…whatever, Suzy and her assembled misfits (including Tim Oberholzer as serial-sharer Roger, Richard Gelinas and Robin Guy as squabbling high-strung Peter and Maureen, and Kathi Langston as sad, dotty Rita) relax, relate and communicate…or at least, try to, with some very funny results. It’s when strange and stuttering newcomer Joe (Stewart Matthews) starts to veer off the plot and genuinely freak people out that a little darkness invades the hilarity…actually, it gets REALLY dark for a few minutes there, only to be yanked back with a belly laugh or two in the nick of time.
FELL mines some pretty rich comic material, and could hardly have a more perfect cast to push things over the edge. Richard Gelinas seems right at home as the blustering, jealous Peter, and Kathi Langston’s bright-eyed declarations about how her late husband was savaged by dogs is such a bizarre kind of funny I can’t describe it.Smooth Tim Oberholzer is great as motormouthed Roger, forever comparing favoured therapeutic techniques with the ‘family’. And Kelly Rigole…well, Kelly on stage is always wunnerful, whether it’s THIS IS A RECORDING, THEY ALL DO IT, or that adorable thing in the library with the masks. She gives a pitch-perfect and foolishly hilarious performance as Suzy, the bossy therapist who just wants you to communicate (except for when she doesn’t, then shut the hell UP!), and is worth the price of admission all by herself. A happy thumbs up to Shana Mary Dorley’s costume work, and David Magladry’s authentic and cool set design. I enjoyed just about every minute of the show…John P.Kelly, you keep ’em coming!
A little after-show schmoozing with live Irish tunes and the usual nibbles, and I’m calling this a great night. I continue to have a lot of fun with the new Gladstone season…next up is Phoenix’s I REMEMBER MAMA, then Plosive’s stab at the radio play tradition with THE SHADOW. Fine way to round out 2011, I say…and I’ll be there. Hope you will to. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)