East West Theatre presents three one-act plays
Three plays written by two very different playwrights proved for one interesting and diverse night of theatre. East West Theatre chose the fifth floor of the historic Mansion Hotel to stage their productions. Mahogany and antique furniture abounds, perfectly setting the mood for the three one-acts of the evening.
Tennessee Williams is a well-known and oft performed playwright. However, director Ann James chose two of his lesser-known works, ‘The Lady of Larkspur Lotion’ and ‘Something Unspoken’.
Elena Yeo as Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore and Andra McKay as Mrs. Wire in Tennessee William’s “The Lady of Larkspur Lotion” Directed by Ann James
‘The Lady of Larkspur Lotion’ begins with a soft jazz saxophone flooding the room; when the lights rise the audience see Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore (Elena Yeo) in her boudoir. Her Southern accent is spot-on (I was raised about three hours East of New Orleans) and as sweet and thick as molasses. The accent, combined with the wailing saxophone and the humid, steamy temperatures of the Shanghai summer (which are not unlike those found in New Orleans), transports the audience to a boarding house in the French Quarter.
Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore is down on her luck and unable to pay the rent. When Mrs. Wire the landlady comes to complain about the back rent she is owed by another border, The Writer (Bill Marcus) enters to defend the invented world. Both boarders ache at the harsh realities Mrs. Wire throws in their faces. He is no great novelist as he claims to be and she is no heiress, in the reality they are two broken-down alcoholics. But when The Writer indulges Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore’s fantasies, a spark ignites inside her, “What if there is no Brazilian rubber plantation? What if there is no rubber king in her life? There ought to be rubber kings in her life!”, he says. When comparing the actors’ realities to their fabricated excuses for not making the rent, it’s hard not to encourage their self-delusions.
Elena Yeo as Miss Grace Lancaster and Andra McKay as Miss Cornelia Scott in Tennessee William’s “Something Unspoken” Directed by Ann James
For ‘Something Unspoken’, also by Tennessee Williams, the set was transformed from a sleazy run down brothel into a posh home set for high tea. It is a superb and subtle two-person performance about a rich woman, Miss Cornelia Scott (Andre McKay) and her long time live-in secretary, Miss Grace Lancaster (Elena Yeo). On the surface Miss Scott is preoccupied with getting the head regency position for her woman’s club but perhaps the most telling perspectives, as well as the best acting, comes from what the characters do not say. Over the past 15 years there has been an unspoken and unresolved desire between the two women that lingers unanswered and unfulfilled. These two Williams plays, while seldom-performed, display his work at its finest and director Ann James makes a memorable debut as a director for East West Theatre.
Arran Hawkins as Moon, Mustaq Missouri as Birdboot and Andra McKay as Mrs. Drudge are a laugh inducing delight in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound” Directed by Christy Shapiro
“The Real Inspector Hound” by Tom Stoppard contains all the wit that we’ve come to expect from the playwright. After a 15-minute intermission where guests sipped cocktails & wine from the mahogany bar at Mansion Hotel and took in the views that the fifth floor provided, they returned to find themselves yet again transported to a different time and place. The play, which is a parody of country house detective stories, opened with a popular song by the group Goyte. Audience members bobbed their heads to the tune and the mood of being drawn into this ‘whodunit’ tale was set. On stage were two critics, the nerdy, obsessive Moon (Arran Hawkins), and the philandering, delightfully smarmy Birdboot (Mustaq Missouri). The two actors and their contrasting characters provided the most laughs from the audience.
Alexia Kalteis as Felicity and John Prakapas as Magnus in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound” Directed by Christy Shapiro
In the play-within-the-play, Mrs. Drudge (Andra McKay) is the all-seeing manor housekeeper. Simon (Jim Bennet) is the visiting guest and most obvious fit for the murderous madman. The cast is rounded out with Felicity (Alexia Kalteis), Cynthia (Amanda Daniels, Magnus (John Prakapas) and a Sherlock Holmes-style Inspector Hound (Paul Johnson) all of whom turned out zesty performances. The cast appeared to be having a blast and audience members followed suit.
Paul Johnson as Inspector Hound in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound” Directed by Christy Shapiro
The three plays are extremely diverse. Yet they all explore themes of the identity that we choose for ourselves and the blurred boundaries of reality. Overall, the evening was exactly what audience members have come to expect from East West Theatre; an enjoyable evening of well-known playwrights, in the hands of passionate actors and directors.
You can catch East West Theatre’s Triple Bill this week from Wednesday, July 4th to Saturday, July 7th at the Mansion Hotel. Click here for details.
WORDS: KATE ROBARDS
PICTURES: SARAH MARTINDALE