Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Pajama Tops"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"Pajama Tops"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Newport Playhouse is the French farce, "Pajama Tops". Written by Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert and based on the French play "Moumou" written by Jean De Letraz in 1950, "Pajama Tops" relies on misunderstandings, insinuations and impending infidelity to weave its comic web as well as a dose of mistaken identities, wacky situations and spicy innuendos. When the maid, Claudine Amour, clad in a very short red skirt with bright red high heels, and the police inspector, Legrande, confide to each other that their respective careers would be enhanced by a "notorious scandal", the audience knows that a crime of passion is lurking somewhere offstage. The fast-paced staging by director Bruce Lackey and the comic shtick plus physical humor that he infuses in his seven talented performers, making the audience laugh all night long with their crazy shenanigans.(There is also a play on the French names in this farce. Amour means love while Le Grande means the big shot and Chauvinet means chauvinistic and Jolijoli means happy, happy or gay.)

It will come as no surprise that the inspector and the maid generate their longed-for scandal. Nor will it astonish anyone that the play like most sex farces, is one long tease consisting of promises never kept. Bruce directs with broad strokes that keep the play in constant motion. For younger generations who may not be familiar with the history of farce in theater, credible comparisons of the genre could be drawn to American television's "Three's Company" or the British sitcom "Fawlty Towers". The eager Claudine and the anxious inspector are only two of the several characters frantically chasing after the concept, if not the actual practice of infidelity in the lightweight comedy. The others include Madame and Monsieur Chauvinet, the chic young couple who owns the French villa, Clair de Lune in Deauville, France, in which the suggested actions take place. Two of the most colorful characters in the show are Leonard Jolijoli, a misogynist poet who flirts with the idea of homosexuality with his swimming instructor, Zeezee who steals his wallet and identity card(Leonard supposedly has sex with all three women but to find out the answer you must see the show) and the other is the sexy, spitfire, Babette Latouche, Monsieur Chauvinet's future mistress who gets to slap him, Leonard, and push Jacques around, she also gets to mount him on the sofa and him around the room while playing horsie. The seventh member of the cast is Jacques Latouche, a swindler on the lam who is masquerading as the butler.(Hard working stage manager, Henryce Zannini keeps things running smoothly all night long while her real life boyfriend, Fred Davison built the lovely set.

Bruce directs with broad strokes that definitely help to enliven the show for current day audiences. The cast do a wonderful job with their roles, although there appears to be an excessive display of mindlessness, even for these particularly superficial characters. New levels of understanding of the terms bimbo and bozo are offered by this cast. Andi Flax, a beautiful statuesque blonde, plays the sexy, self-absorbed maid whose self-image is that of a walking pleasure palace. Miss Amour energetically considers developing into a grand courtesan. To fulfill her goal of becoming an erotic professional, she is studying art, literature, yoga, numerology and astrology. Claudine vigorously practices her seductive mannerisms on all the men, to their alternating amusement and discomfort. John Moreau gives the bumbling, foolish, soon-to-be-retired inspector a smidgeon of dignity. (The Inspector keeps wishing he were 20 years younger as he meets all three of the women who are living and breathing sex symbols) Nishan Lawton is hilarious as the tres gay, Leonard. When Georges tries to dupe his wife into believing this jaunty, effeminate poet is Mr. Latouche, the hysterical charade has begun. Nishan is the spark that sets the stage afire when he prances about the stage in hideous tie-dyed shirts and a white pants and shoes. He also jumps over the couch several times, too. Leonard hates being called Moumou which means soft as mush but the character is vindicated by the close of the show as he becomes more manly. Jim Whitaker as George almost never leaves the stage and he does a dynamic job as the philandering husband who thinks it is fine for a man to have a mistress on the side. The gorgeous blonde haired, Marshall Duran sparkles as Yvonne Chauvinet. Her beauty is only exceeded by her talent as the long suffering wife who vows to take revenge on her wandering husband who likes to do his business with other women. One of her best moments comes when she puts the moves on Leonard as she chases him around the sofa and throws him down on it, climbing on top of him. The other gorgeous, voluptuous, blonde who plays the undulating Babette is Melanie Snow who is usually cast as the girl next door and in nice roles. This is her breakout role as she commands the stage by running roughshod over all the men and domineering them while doing so. Wow! Last but not least is the thug-like performance of David Koohy as Jacques. He wears a fake black beard which is hilarious looking and he slithers in and out of the scenes while pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. Once all the character introductions are out of the way, the laughs are nearly perpetual as the farce races toward the inevitable, uproarious climax. The French accents add to the merriment of the show, too. So for a fun-filled show and an excellent buffet before it, prepared by topnotch chef Sue Raposa, be sure to catch "Pajama Tops" in Newport before time runs out. (The spareribs seem to be so popular that they constantly have to refill it over and over again.)

"Pajama Tops" (19 September - 23 November)
NEWPORT PLAYHOUSE
104 Connell Highway, NEWPORT RI
1 (401) 848-7529 (PLAY)

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