October 11, 2020
Laughter is the best medicine – and Weekend Comedy serves up a welcome overdose
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
The Des Moines Community Playhouse balances its theatrical leadership role with the unprecedented impact that the current pandemic has had on its industry. With a repertory schedule of Weekend Comedy and I and You, the Playhouse will present alternating weekends of live theatre in the tightly controlled environment of their mainstage hall. With safeguards in place, patrons maintained masked status throughout the no-intermission presentation (about 90 minutes) – with brief unveilings to sip or munch on concessions. Shaking a little rust off of the collective audience protocols, the small crowd quickly released months of pent-up cultural starvation with enthusiastic laughter and applause.
Weekend Comedy, by Sam Bobrick and Jeanne Bobrick, is a great choice to check the necessary boxes, while delivering live performance delight. Small cast, strong script, minimal production needs. Check. Strong performances, great production values. Check. This show is a live theatre cross between a sit-com and a rom-com. It’s a tight script with plenty of action, and plenty of laughs. This strong, well-meshed ensemble quickly carries the audience through the story in a laugh-filled romp.
Director David R. Kilpatrick brings plenty of fresh talent to the Playhouse stage, anchored by one veteran of that venue. Three new actors join the familiar and versatile talents of Gina Gedler in this delightfully presented comedy. A simple situation sparks the action in this show as Peggy (Gedler), married to Frank (Sean Kanuso), book a weekend in a secluded cabin over Memorial Day Weekend. Peggy wants to rekindle the spark in their long marriage. Frank seems obliviously resistant to his wife’s attempts at amore. With Peggy’s persistent fanning of embers into flames, however, the wooing commences – just as the door opens. Enter young couple Jill (Tiffany Liechty) and Tony (Jobe Fee). It seems that the cabin had been rented to them, also, by a mutual contact. This tale spins into whacky fun from there.
Kilpatrick’s direction keeps the script humming along at a refreshing clip. This quartet of highly attuned performers, setting up and delivering the story with ease, is a wonderful ensemble. Crisply delivered, each sets up the other, keeping an engaging energy to the story as the interplay between the characters unfolds. Their ensemble rapport completely engages the audience. From Kanuso’s acerbic, yet obtuse, Frank, to his grousing, combative approach to the young couple, especially Tony (played with an entitled swagger by Fee), the ebbs and flows of action flit along in captivating style. As Jill, Liechty adds a demure beginning which blossoms into a stand-her-ground alliance with Peggy, who supports her relationship goal with Tony. As Peggy, Gedler’s impeccable sense of comic timing, accented with her signature laughter, sets a high-bar tone for everyone in the cast, and all deliver. For a brief time, the audience put pandemic thoughts on hold.
The guys vacillate, the gals are constant. The comedic interplay will fill your heart and soul with that long-absent joy of live theatre. Your funny bone will get a well-deserved workout. Weekend Comedy truly is as the title implies: a perfect way to highlight your weekend, as the Playhouse takes a tentative, yet well-conceived, first step back into live performances in their venerable venue.
The Culture Buzz theatre reviews are written by professional writers to inform and enlighten. To receive weekly newsletters, email TheCultureBuzz@gmail.com or visit www.TheCultureBuzz.com. The Culture Buzz is a weekly broadcast/streaming arts & entertainment collection of conversations, airing Wednesdays 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Central Time on KFMG 98.9 FM and streaming at www.kfmg.org.