Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hay Fever"

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note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco

"Hay Fever"
at 2nd Story Theatre

Reviewed by Richard Pacheco

This current production at 2nd Story Theatre is sheer fun, merrily rolling along with eccentric family of characters and befuddled house guests. “Hay Fever” is a comic play written by Noël Coward in 1924 and first produced in 1925 with Marie Tempest as the first Judith Bliss. Laura Hope Crews played the role in New York. Best described as a cross between high farce and a comedy of manners, the play is set in an English country house in the 1920s, and deals with the four eccentric members of the Bliss family and their outlandish behavior when they each invite a guest to spend the weekend. The self-centered behavior of the hosts finally drives their guests to flee while the Blisses are so engaged in a family row that they do not notice their guests' furtive departure.

Director Ed Shea keeps it all gliding brightly along with a solid cast and exquisite set.

Written by Noel Coward in 1924 in three days, inspired by the life of actress Laurette Taylor and her family’s over the top very theatrical lifestyle. There is really not a plot to it. Basically it is an eccentric family treating and mistreating its guests and each other. There are some fine and very funny moments here.

It opens as Sorel and Simon Bliss, a brother and sister, exchange artistic and bohemian dialogue while awaiting the arrival a a multitude of guests, which none of the family has bothered to inform the others are coming to stay, all of them.

. Judith, their mother, displays the absent-minded theatricality of a retired star actress, and David, their father, a novelist, is concentrating on finishing his latest book. Judith announces that she has decided to return to the stage in one of her old hits, Love's Whirlwind. The other guests gradually arrive as the family trades bars and witticism with each other and the guests.

The family insists that everyone should join in a parlour game, a variety of charades in which one person must guess the adverb being acted out by the others. The Blisses are in their element, but the guests flounder and the game breaks up. Simon and Jackie exit to the garden, Sorel drags Sandy into the library, and David takes Myra outside.

There are flirtations galore abounding between family and various guests.

The madcap merriment continues the next day as well all the while believing their family is quite normal on all counts.

Rachel Nadeau is Sorrell, daughter to the sister who is young and bored. Nadeau is excellent in the role, delivering a performance full of sass and finesse as she navigates past the quips and quirks with equal flair and style.

Patrick Martin Saunders is Simon, the spoiled, self-indulgent artist brother of the clan. He is an artist and a brat, big time. He is flamboyant in the extreme and un abashedly so. Saunders is a treat s the artistic brat who overindulges himself with flair and exaggeration at every turn.

Joanne Fayan is the flamboyant and overly theatrical mother, Judith. Her tongue is eveready to fire a new salvo of insults or witticism at the nearest available party and she frequently indulges herself in random flirtations with any available male. Fayan is a treat in the role, full of over done drama and exaggeration that make nit a comic delight whenever she is there, poised for some new barb and insidious comment.

John Michael Richardson is David, Judith’s foppish, husband and writer. He is obsessed about his book over nearly all else, needing it finish it, but not above making a pass at one of the guest along the way like Myron. It is just a part of him seeking his next muse. Richardson is sheer fun in the role, Richardson brings out the best in the role, full of flair and clever one liners which he delivers with skill and abrasive charm, making them hilarious.

Brendan Macera is Sandy Tyrell, a boxer and the young stud invited for the weekend by Judith and he is fascinated and entranced by her, every aspect about her. Macera is excellent in the role and plays it to the hilt with a comic panache that is impressive and amusing.

David Sackel is Myron, whom Simon invited for the weekend. Sackel has comic verve and skill which shines throughout. He is especially funny in the flirtation scene with David, delivering moment of high hilarity with ease and assurance.

Nicholas Thibeault is Richard, the stuffy, all too proper diplomat the Sorel invites for the weekend. He is every bit stiff and proper but likeable none the less. Thibeault handles the role with skill and proper manner which is pure fun to watch.

Amy Thompson is Jackie, a humiliated flapper who is a bit ditzy. She is David’s weekend guest. Thompson handles it with dead one precisions, making ditzy highly entertaining and fun.

Ed Shea directs with a supple touch. He makes the most of this alight play and gets his cast to move airily along, getting the most mileage out of the quips and one liners that they can. It is comic fun, full of side splitting hilarity and some good comic touches like the dance Judith does and the charades sequence.

It’s a merry romp with venom galore shooting out in every direction, no target left untouched at ay time. It is hilarious nastiness all along the way, sure to please.

The set by Karl Pelletier is gorgeous, rich in detail and scope, a feast for the eyes The same can be said of Ron Cesario’s wonderful costumes. Both of these aptly capture the flavor of the times and the play itself with exuberance and style.

The play, one of Coward’s best loved though slight on plot has much to offer brought vividly to life by some stunning performances, set and costumes. The laugsh are packed in here with a sense of malicious fun that is irresistible. While you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving ends of these barbs, if is hilarious to watch them aimed and striking others.

"Hay Fever (18 July - 31 August)
@ 28 Market Street, WARREN RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide