On Theater: Golden West doesn't have to dress to impress

Probably the toughest part of staging a farcical comedy such as Golden West College's "Don't Dress for Dinner," at least on opening night, is holding for laughs without disrupting the required frantic pace of the play.

The laughs do come thick and fast in this uproarious production, often at the expense of the next line of dialogue, but this deficiency should be remedied as the show closes its brief engagement this weekend and the cast has familiarized itself with the frequency and volume of audience response.

Director Martie Ramm, who viewed the London production of Marc Camoletti's sex-themed play in the early 1990s and put it on her personal to-do list, has mounted a slick, bouncy version (Americanized, though not thoroughly, by Robin Hawdon) with a cast of actors well drilled in the art of physical comedy.

This rendition is set in a tidy home in upstate New York, renovated from a barn (among its bedrooms are the "cowshed' and the "piggery") where Bernard (Josh Allton) is preparing a weekend of illicit romance once he gets his wife (Amalia Eddene Lytle) out of town.

Trouble is her plans fall through and she learns Bernard's old buddy Robert (Tony Graham), with whom she's been conducting her own hanky-panky, is an invited guest. There's also a cook (Chantelle Rosinsky) on the way to prepare dinner, but she becomes confused with the mistress (Danelle Von Visger) since they have similar names and both answer to Susie.

The plot itself is funny enough, but when the farcical wheels are put into motion and push literally comes to shove, all Hades breaks loose. At this point, the actors convey more with facial and physical gestures (especially Allton) than with sophisticated repartee.

As the engineer of the complicated caper, Allton becomes more like a traffic cop, steering other actors in varying directions as he strives to keep the charade alive. Graham excels at the task of stubborn refusal until he's ultimately sucked into the scheme.

Lytle is cool and classy as Jacqueline, the wife, erupting with vigor when the truth emerges. Von Visger is a statuesque beauty whose best moments come when she's fitted with an apron and cap and, despite her protests, forced into an unfamiliar room — the kitchen.

As the cook reconfigured into the roles of guest and mistress, Rosinsky remains cool, calm and collected — actually "collecting" is the more accurate term since each impersonation has its price, about $200 a pop. Keith Reza completes the picture as her unexpected husband, thick in both body and brain.

Hawdon's Americanized script hasn't quite eliminated all the British references. The actors still say "rang" instead of "phoned" and "whilst" rather than "while." But you'll get the picture.

Bret Engle's setting is beautifully accomplished, as are Sigrid Hammer Wolf's lighting design and Susan Thomas Babb's costumes (especially the nightwear).

"Don't Dress for Dinner" is irrepressibly funny (silly in spots but still entertaining). It's a barrel of laughs from a very competent cast at Golden West College.


'Millie' is thoroughly impressive

For what essentially is the corniest plot line for a musical since "Anything Goes," the stage version of the movie "Thoroughly Modern Millie" certainly has proved popular with local theater groups recently.

Over the last few years, Golden West College and Vanguard University have had their way with this piece of Roaring '20s fluff, and now Huntington Beach High School's Academy for the Performing Arts is taking it on with an elaborate production backed by a full student orchestra. It only seems that about half the entire high school's personnel are involved on stage, backstage, in the orchestra pit or in the lobby.

And whether or not the material is worth the effort, director Tim Nelson's humongous cast attacks it with the zeal and determination of the allies on D-Day in this sparkling production in the Huntington High auditorium.

"Millie" is set in 1922. Women are coming into their own in society (among the walk-ons is Dorothy Parker, whose electric blue gown gives George Gershwin an idea for the title of his new composition).

The title character, just off the train from Kansas and determined to take a big bite out of the Big Apple, is beautifully rendered by Elizabeth Romero, whose strong vocalizing and unquenchable energy propel the show like rocket fuel. Romero's wide-eyed portrayal of naive determination under the craziest circumstances merits extended applause.

Caden Michael Gray as her erstwhile romantic interest hits the stage running and transforms his character from a chilly smart aleck to a lovesick swain with believable earnestness. Hayleigh Green cutely enacts Millie's best buddy, a chirpy old-fashioned girl from out West. (She alternates with Tamara Mendoza.)

Two supporting roles take on resplendent sheen in this production. Lauryn Judson tackles the juicy part of the villainous pseudo-Chinese lady who operates a white slavery ring and wrings out the last drop of comedy. And Tayler Hayes — double-cast with Sarah Marion — exhibits a superb set of vocal cords as the social butterfly-heiress whose "Only in New York" solo earns rapturous applause.

Garrett Brown scores nicely as Millie's boss who flips over Green's character at first sight. Amanda Hinchee chalks up some toe-tapping mileage as the ostensibly stern office manager.

Diane Makas' sprightly choreography injects some impressive ensemble excellence into the production, which is solidly backed by Gregg Gilboe's 34th turn as musical director of an APA show. And the costumes by Courtney Suter-Gilio add considerable atmospheric "roar" to the Roaring '20s.

Though the auditorium has been remodeled, the theater's sound system still contains a few bugs, muffling dialogue and vocal lyrics on occasion.

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" may be a bit creakily constructed, but it remains an agreeable entertainment package when presented with the skill and energy of the APA company.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.

If You Go

What: "Don't Dress for Dinner"

Where: Golden West College Mainstage Theater

When: Closing performances 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $10 to $12

Call: (714) 895-8150

If You Go

What: "Thoroughly Modern Millie"

Who: Academy for the Performing Arts

Where: Huntington Beach High School Auditorium

When: Closing performances 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $15 to $20

Call: (714) 536-2514, ext. 4025

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World