Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Medium Theatre Illuminates The Stage with Peter Shaffer's "Black Comedy"

All great comedy is built upon a serious foundation of throwing black comedic light onto the darker questions of human existence.  Peter Shaffer's brilliant play, "Black Comedy" accomplishes this feat in spades, much to the delight of the audiences that are filling the cozy space at the Factory Theater. (Only 2 performances remain - Friday and Saturday).  The current production of the play by the Elliot Norton Award-winning company, Happy Medium Theatre, is a tour de force of balletic split-second timing by the actors and explosive side-splitting laughter from the audience members.

In the case of Mr. Shaffer's writing, which is deadly serious in plays such as "Equus" and Amadeus,"  the very British Shaffer takes a humorous look at the antics of a group of class-conscious characters feeling their way around a pitch black room — although the stage is actually flooded with light much of the time.  Beginning with the preliminary announcements - presented in flawless BBC diction - we are transported to an England in which nothing is as it appears to be.  The darkness - caused by a blown fuse - becomes a metaphor for the many ways in which the characters hide their true selves from one another.   In many ways, the play feels like a classic British bedroom farce set primarily in a living room.

The cast, deftly co-directed by Lizette M. Morris and Michael Underhill, are skillful in creating the illusion that they are flailing around in pitch darkness.  Brooks Reeves as starving artistic sculptor Brindsley Miller is a revelation - red hair askew and eyes focused on the nothingness of his blacked-out flat.  Equally impressive is his soon-to-be-announced fiancee, Carol Melkett, played with bemused grace by Louise Hamill.  Playing the role of Carol's fiercely regimented father, Col. Melkett, Mike Budway is the very model of a cartoonish modern British officer.  Adding spice to the proceedings are two neighbors who have taken refuge in the dark in Miller's flat - Miss Furnival and Harold Gorringe.  Audrey Lynn Sylvia as Miss Furnival is wonderful, often evoking the holy ghostly presence of her departed father, the hard shell Baptist preacher who abhorred alcohol.  Naturally,  throughout the course of the evening, Miss Furnival furtively sips gin and ends the evening very much in her cups.  Gorridge, played by Mikey DiLoreto, is a collector of fine furnishings and objets d'art.  His affections also lean in the direction of young Mr. Miller.  But when Gorringe discovers that Miller has appropriated some of his priceless furniture for the evening to impress a rich art collector, he turns on Miller in a fit of high dudgeon.  Rounding out the cast are Alyssa Osiecki as Clea, Miller's "main squeeze," and Tim Fairley as the German refugee light company repairmen, whom everyone mistakenly assumes is the long-awaited millionaire, George Bamburger.  Making a last minute appearance is Bamburger himself, played with panache by Michael Underhill.  It turns out that he "drops in" only for a brief, but memorable, visit.

Happy Medium continues its unbroken string of presenting plays that employ its fine company of actors in the best possible light.  They are one of Boston Fringe Theater's gold nuggets.

Let there be light!

Fri.  June 21 (8 p.m.)
Sat. June 22 (8 p.m.)
Adults- $18 in advance, $20 at door.
Students/Seniors- $15 in advance, $17 at door

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