Conmen in corsages at Sunset Playhouse

June 11, 2019

With the commonplace woes of a starving artist, what are two Shakespearean actors on the decline to do? Impersonate the nieces of an heiress, of course.

 

Ken Ludwig's Leading Ladies is a farcical romp through the many mishaps that follow Jack Gable and Leo Clark as they don skirts in the hopes of walking away with a million dollars each. Inconveniently, matters of the heart take precedence and the whole plan gets... muddled.

 

All photos courtesy of Katrina Smith. (Left to right) Stephanie Pluta, Sarah Briana Monahan, Brandon C Haut, and Mike Owens.

 

Brandon C Haut and Mike Owens embrace a surprising feminine grace as Jack (now Stephanie) and Leo (as Maxine) fib their way into the hearts of the family. The pair parade about the stage in heels and full-length gowns with ease, removing any distractions from the story at hand. Through Owens, Maxine is a genuinely lovable heroine. Haut's Stephanie is more reserved, allowing for uproar whenever she embraces a wilder persona.

 

Leo seeks to woo bride-to-be Meg (Stephanie Pluta) out of her marriage with pastor Duncan, while Jack is enamored with roller-skating waitress Audrey (Sarah Briana Monahan). The men bring most of their comedy through their drag performances, and their counterparts meet and exceed the standard.

 

Meg may be a pastor's fiancée, but Pluta brings the character a healthy dose of fiery passion. The result is a gem of contradictions, unpredictable and riotous. Then, Monahan's delivery of the flighty Audrey is strewn with flawless comic timing. These leading ladies hold their own.

 

Marty Wallner's lighting design highlights the moments when aspiring actress Meg delivers Shakespearean excerpts. The contrast between these moments is visually stunning, but it doesn't quite compliment the frivolity of the rest of the show. The touch of actual drama amidst the absurdly melodramatic plot feels out of place.

 

Haut, Monahan, and Owens.

 

In a last attempt to win over the ladies, Jack and Leo propose to put on a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night preceding Duncan and Meg's wedding. Throughout the play, the events in Leading Ladies draw direct parallels to those of the classic, making the show a particular delight for fans of the Bard's popular comedy.

 

Director Michael Pocaro keeps the show moving at a breakneck pace. The show is a whirlwind of miscommunication and scrambled identities. Ludwig's script blows the farce genre out of the water - just when all the pieces of the con seem to fall into place, he writes twists and turns that swing out of left field and barrel the plot forward. The result is a refreshing whimsicality in an otherwise familiar style. Leading Ladies runs at Sunset Playhouse in the Furlan Auditorium through June 23rd.

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