By PAUL WOZNIAK
Starlight opens its season with comical farce
Suspension of disbelief is critical to the comedy genre, where plot and the rules of reality are often discarded in service of a joke. That’s especially true Review for Starlight Dinner Theatre’s latest production, “What Is
Susan’s Secret,” an “American farce” by Michael and Susan Parker riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies that boggle the mind. What the script lacks in a coherent story, however, it makes up for with the series of eccentric characters that the cast playfully brings to life.
The story begins with elderly innkeepers Susan (Beth Webb) and Michael (Chris Klaver), co-owners of the Cider Mill Inn who offer a too-good-to-be-true discount to licensed professionals such as plumbers and electricians. Little do the guests know that the sign-in form is actually a finely printed “service contract” binding them into a full day’s labor. Forget where you think this is going. There’s no reverse con hatched by the guests (a la “Ocean’s Eleven”) or anything else to match the stakes of criminal extortion. From here, the focus is on farcical jokes supplied by a range of idiosyncratic guests and the relative sanity/senility of the innkeepers themselves.
“What Is Susan’s Secret?”
Starlight Dinner Theatre 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24-Saturday, Oct. 25 (6:30 p.m. dinner); 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26 (1:30 p.m. dessert matinee) Waverly East Cafetorium 3131 W. Michigan Ave., Lansing Show and dinner: $36/$33 seniors and students/$20 children 12 and under; show and dessert: $20/ $13 children 12 and under; show only: $15/$10 seniors, students and children (517) 243-6040, starlightdinnertheatre.com
Klaver is especially committed as the severely senile Michael, acting out elaborate daydreams like a geriatric Walter Mitty. Susan keeps the audience abreast as Michael mentally moves from warzones to fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes within the span of a sentence. The lengthy list of costume and prop designers deserve kudos for their clever contraptions like a palace guard hat made from a duster wand taped to a bucket.
But the real treats are the three unique characters created by Linda Granger, Michael Mahoney, Laura Croff Wheaton and M.D. Nelson for each scene or act. The four actors give their best performances in the scenes directly before and after intermission. Their characters include the world’s most boring man (played by Nelson), a former army drill sergeant (Granger), a chopper-riding pacifist preacher (Mahoney), a dry witted drunk (Croff Wheaton). Well choreographed antics drive the show along.
The biggest hurdle opening night was timing, as some actors failed to keep the show’s quick pace going. Frequent flubs definitely took their toll on the audience. But the performance never dragged to a halt, thanks in part to director Lisa Sodman Elzinga. Even during the show’s jarring shifts in plot or tone (such as the twist resolution which veers sharply sentimental), Elizinga and the cast somehow make this absurd production feel purposeful and cohesive.