Review by Danny Gaisin
Alas, the duty of a critic occasionally entails a redux to something recently seen. Our last Warren Graves’ “MUMBERLEY INHERITANCE” was a mere 14 weeks past. So, one paragraph will be strictly a reprise; all the rest of our Scarborough Theatre Guild’s analysis will be novel and hopefully as innovative as Mike Ranieri’s concept. His direction is creative and not just guiding the actors. Normal blocking is omitted; and an obviously loose rein on the dialogue permits improvisational ad-libbing.
The result is farcical; fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable.
Now the repetition: – To iterate the plot herein would be redundant- anyone who has seen episodes of ‘Perils of Pauline’ or ‘Dudley Do-Right’ cartoons will be totally familiar with the standardized scenario. The damsel in distress – or DiD; the usually somewhat bewildered hero; the doddering old dad – or DOD; the good house keeper (GH); and the flawed servant (Igor) to the villain – (Snidely Whiplash) who always has the meatiest role and the best one-liners. MUMBERLEY stereotypes the Victorian melodrama to a ‘T’.
Ranieri’s directorial enhancements include the piano backgrounds of Jeff Rosenthal who also must contend with the numerous challenges and threats from the on-stage cast-members. His selections may suit the events taking place, but nevertheless glean their own laughs for being so corny and puerile. Somehow; Silly Works! The large painting overhead becomes a PowerPoint™ projection that augments the plotlines, and having so much of the activity take place either with or among the audience keeps viewers definitely on their toes. ‘Six long Years’ become a punchline that equals the shouted BOO or HISS! We found that observing the audience was almost as entertaining as watching the action unfold on stage, and this was facilitated by Theatre Scarborough’s thrust-stage layout. Opening night spectator involvement was taken to a new (but ridiculous) height. The shouted commentaries necessitated lightening responses and adaptations by the recipient cast members. This was theatre at its most challenging.
The ingénue ‘DiD’ is played by an adorable Nicole Marie McCafferty. Her pretty face and modest demeanor are enhanced by a very pleasant soprano voice. The only drawback, especially in her opening plot-layout monologue, is poor projection. Her beleaguered father- Sir Roger M. is effectively rendered by Gregory Hertel whose timing and phrase patterns are bang on. Hero no. 1 is Brad Finch (Rodney Stoutheart)who has all the manifestations of studliness that’s coupled with super-poseur mannerisms but with the exception of the toothy sparkle one almost expects. The requisite maid is Catherine Meyer and both she and Polina Kheifets as nurse Polly contribute full measure of support and line-feeding. The obsequious ‘Igor’ is Martin Kelly and he even sporadically resorts to a hump position underscoring his role. The late arriving (after six looonnnnggg years) re-pat from the Canada’s is hero No. 2 – Dylan Maloney. Hopefully, he’ll have future meatier roles …he’s that good.
Now for the villain (all together –“BOO”). Damien Gulde may not end up owning Mumberley Estate but he does possess “The Mumberley Inheritance” from his first on-stage entrance. His mobile face; timing; zingers and especially the numerous asides to & with the audience give him the show. Even when at stage rear; his expressions of distain; boredom or incredulity steal focus from all the others. The play’s progress oftimes loses audience focus due to his shenanigans. The man is a consummate comedian.
The costumes are faultless; the stage décor is exceptionally detailed and the light & sound work are major contributors to the play’s success. The run is until June 20th and as the program notates: – FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. Call 416-267-9292 for tickets.
Making the long Hamilton-Scarboro drive worthwhile – chance to photograph Mr. Harper’s 1919 Model “T” that is certainly Mumberley’s contemporary.