Monday, March 19, 2018

HART’s Nana – Not Quite Your Cherished Childhood Memories

Ted C. Schroeder, Phyllis Lang, Lauren Loomis, and Pam S. Hough

By Tina Arth

By all rights, a play with a title like Nana’s Naughty Knickers ought to be not just bad, but appallingly, mind-numbingly bad. However, a decent script, several seasoned actors, and a comedy-loving director are defying the odds in HART’s current production. The resulting show by playwright Katherine DiSavino fits perfectly with this season’s theme, “Laugh Along With HART.”

The story is based on a unique take on the idea of grannies gone wild; with its “ba-da-boom” jokes and suggestive, but ultimately innocent set-ups it provides classic community theater fare. Law school bound Bridget is moving into her dear Nana’s rent-controlled apartment in NYC – just for the summer, until she can get a place of her own. When she learns that Nana Sylvia is running an illegal boutique, selling racy lingerie to senior citizens from the apartment (in defiance of the landlord’s rules, zoning laws, the IRS, and any semblance of good taste) she is horrified, and insists that the operation be shut down immediately. Shrugging off the threat of jail time or worse – the landlord is dying to evict Sylvia and raise the rent – the enterprising old gal is having none of it. A shipment mix-up brings the wrong (so very, very wrong) type of lingerie to the apartment, sending Sylvia and her pal Vera into a sewing frenzy as they try to recreate their lost shipment before the arrival of their biggest customer.  Merriment ensues.

As the niece Bridget, Lauren Loomis is often stuck playing the “adult in the room” as she worries her way through the first act, but in Act II when she has committed to helping her Nana she’s able to relax and get some laughs – particularly the physical comedy as she tries to maintain the stuffing that makes it possible for her to fill out a “Saucy Slips, Etc.” item built for a slightly saggier physique. Karen Huckfeldt brings a delightfully gum-smacking nonchalance to her portrayal of (model? sex worker?) Heather Van Pree, and has no trouble filling out her outrageous outfit, a wonderfully tacky assemblage of lace corset and fishnet tights stretched to the max. While his Irish accent sometimes wobbles, Ted C. Schroeder makes a credible nervous cop, and his naïve courtship of Bridget is rather charming.

The real star turns come from the senior citizens (all veteran actors/comics): Phyllis Lang (“Sylvia”), Pamela S. Hough (“Vera”), Donald Cleland (landlord “Gil Schmidt”), Gary Romans (“Delivery Guy #1”), and Virginia Kincaid (“Clair Schmidt”) – with close to 200 years of combined experience, these folks definitely know how to milk each situation for maximum comic effect. Kincaid and Romans have very little stage time in their cameo roles, but each has honed a few minutes of stage time into a memorable performance. Cleland’s sarcastic, explosively angry landlord reveals his true colors, like all bullies, when confronted by a higher power (his wife Clair) – his sudden shift into a whiny pussy cat is a joy to behold. However, the meat of the show’s humor comes from the interaction between Hough and Lang, two of the toughest old broads to tread the boards locally for quite a while. Their timing is exquisite, and Hough’s fierce, raspy, occasionally hysterical delivery contrasts beautifully with Lang’s steely if soft-spoken determination.
William Crawford and director Morrow have built a set that, while not beautiful (it is, after all a rent-controlled apartment!), is extremely functional – there are several hiding places to conceal the lingerie, each controlled by a hidden switch or lever, and the smooth mechanisms really enhance the effect of the tawdry undergarments.

Nana’s Naughty Knickers contributes nothing substantive to our understanding of the human condition, but it provides a couple of hours of welcome comic relief. Despite the apparently adult theme, it’s really a pretty clean show, and not inappropriate for most children. They may not understand everything, but they’ll get a kick out of the bizarre clothing, clever set, general slapstick aura, and Huckfeldt’s gum-chewing acrobatics!

Nana’s Naughty Knickers runs through Saturday, March 31st with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays (plus an added Saturday matinee on March 31st) at HART Theater, 185 S.E. Washington, Hillsboro.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Twilight’s Stage Kiss: Farce? Rom Com? Brilliantly, Both

Kristen Paige and Rob Kimmelman

By Tina Arth

Sometimes those of us who are consumers, not producers, of show biz can a little irritated by the fascination theater folk seem to have with stories that revolve around their insular little world.  Some of those stories amuse us a lot less than they seem to amuse the actors. However, as millions of fans of The Producers can attest, the right script with the right acting and direction = a rare gem. Playwright Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss, now playing at North Portland’s Twilight Theater Company, is the real thing – a fine combination of farce and frothy romantic comedy with just enough serious undercurrents to give us a taste of thematic depth beneath the waves of laughter. Under the direction of Matt Gibson, seven actors (portraying a total of fourteen characters) deliver two hours (more or less) of broad gags and sly reactions, resulting in a show that’s impossibly funny.

Since Shakespeare’s time, the “play within a play” has been a time-honored device, and Ruhl doubles down by offering two such theatrical insets, each a parody of hackneyed, truly bad theater. Two actors (identified only as “She” and “He”) meet at a New Haven audition for a terrible, terribly stylized ‘30s drama called “The Last Kiss.” Turns out that they are ex-lovers from 15 years earlier, which adds some tension (sexual and otherwise) to the fact that they are expected to kiss regularly and passionately in the play. He is something of a bounder (with a girlfriend), while She now has a husband and teen daughter. In the short run, these tiny details are no obstacle to the revival of their old flame.  By the time we get to the second act (and second playlet) the now-loving and lusting couple has traveled to Detroit for leads in a gritty crime drama that presents a whole new set of conventions – the tough New York broad tangling with an IRA thug. The show’s somewhat surprising conclusion provides a satisfying reflection on the difference between love and infatuation, between living in the moment and living for the long run. Ultimately, the audience can feel that all is OK with the world – without being subjected to a cloying sentimentality that would dilute all of the lovely wit and slapstick that has come before.

While Stage Kiss is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in several years, there are no actual jokes in the script – the humor comes not from wordplay, but from the cast’s ability to infuse humor through really, really good comic acting. Kristen Paige (She) captures her character’s narcissism and neuroticism, yet she somehow manages to make us care. Rob Kimmelman (He) does some fine physical comedy, especially when on crutches, and (like Paige) he manages without mugging, overacting, or chasing laughs. In fact, much of the finest comedy comes from watching and sharing the other actors’ reactions to the couple’s make-out scenes – subtle, organic, hilarious. Speaking of osculation, some of the evening’s funniest stuff comes when Paige has to audition and later rehearse with Jason Fox (as Kevin) – the sight of the hapless, clearly gay Fox trying to master a stage kiss is an image that clings to the brain like an octopus on the mask of an unwary diver.

Much of Derek Lane and Josiah Green’s set design is functional, but somewhat bare bones – the exception is the wonderfully gritty East Village studio, where every touch from dirty dishes to grimy handprints is depicted in loving detail. Laura Cunard’s keyboard work (and original music by Cunard, Gibson, and Jonnie Torres) is an unexpected pleasure.

My first reaction to Stage Kiss was that it was only to be missed if you’re in a coma – and I stand by that assessment (as long as you’re not a child – it’s dripping with mature themes and language).  Every house should be a full house!

Twilight Theater Company’s Stage Kiss is playing at the Performing Arts Theater, 7515 N. Brandon Avenue, Portland through March 25 with performances at 8 P.M. Friday and Saturday and 3:00 P.M. on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bag&Baggage's Death and the Maiden Riveting Political Drama

Mandy Khoshnevisan and Nathan Dunkin
Photo by Casey Campbell Photography

By Tina Arth

For its first show of 2018, Bag & Baggage presents the fierce, thought provoking, and utterly compelling Death and the Maiden. Playwright Ariel Dorfman’s 1991 drama explores the problem of how we, as individuals and as a social and political body, deal with the after effects of a period of oppression – how do we heal the victims, sanction the abusers, and move on to reintegrating both sides into a functioning society? While the play is clearly based on two survivors of Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year reign of terror in Chile, it could easily have been written about post-Nazi Germany or, on a less overtly catastrophic scale, about the “Me Too” movement and our efforts to deal with millennia of subjugation of women. Where there are no independent witnesses and the accused denies the charge, do we believe the victim?

Dorfman tells the story of Paulina Salas, a fictional Latin American woman who encounters Roberto Miranda, the man who (she believes) tortured and raped her 15 years earlier as an agent of a repressive political regime. Although she never actually saw her abuser, she recognizes his voice, smell, even the feel of his skin – there is no doubt in her mind that Miranda is guilty. A shaky democracy has been restored, and Salas’ lawyer husband, Gerardo Escobar, has just been appointed to a commission to investigate the worst excesses of the previous administration.  Much to Escobar’s horror, Paulina pulls a gun, then binds and gags Miranda in the couple’s living room so that she can “try” him for his crimes. Not only does Escobar doubt his wife, but as a representative of the newly restored democracy he is committed to reinstituting the rule of law, although he knows that the commission will serve in large part to whitewash the vast majority of the dictatorship’s crimes. As the story progresses, Paulina becomes increasingly threatening, and Gerardo (uncertain about Miranda’s guilt or innocence, but certain that Paulina’s approach is wrong) ultimately talks Miranda into “confessing” to save his life.

Mandan Khoshnevisan (Paulina), Nathan Dunkin (Gerardo), and Anthony Green (Miranda) give commanding performances, and the contrast between their styles allows the story to flow with unbroken tension, yet not seem like a one-note show. As the dismayed husband, Dunkin displays a constantly shifting combination of frustration, disbelief, egotism, and solicitous compassion for a woman he obviously loves, yet cannot trust. The moment when he begins to consider the possibility that Miranda may actually be guilty is brilliant – just a flash of insight that comes and goes so quickly that he barely acknowledges it even to himself. Green’s performance is colored by shifting emotional reactions as he consistently denies his guilt – self-righteousness, anger, pleading, wheedling, conniving, just convincing enough that we are kept a little uncertain. However, it is Khoshnevisan who delivers a real tour de force. It’s a total joy watching her discard 15 years of terrified victimhood as she claims power over Miranda; she displays a wicked sense of humor, and her fiery strength and often-sadistic attitude drive home the message that karma’s a bitch. While there are elements of ambiguity about the conclusion, it is absolutely clear in the final scene that she has found the healing she sought, and we can only rejoice with her.

Jim Ricks-White, Jeffery A. Smith, and Tiffany Rousseau have teamed up on sound, lighting and technical design to make the walls of The Vault a place of magic as the ocean, impossibly starry nights, and a small taste of a Schubert concert surround the audience with the evocative sights and sounds of a South American coastline.

While Bag & Baggage Associate Artistic Director has co-directed several previous productions, Death and the Maiden is the first show she has handled as solo director. It was a challenging maiden voyage that she handled beautifully; Greer and her team have delivered a powerful show that lingers long after the lights go out.

Death and the Maiden is playing at The Vault, 350 E. Main Street, Hillsboro, through March 25th, with 7:30 p.m. performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday matinees.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mask & Mirror’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Jayne Furlong, Chuck Weed, Erik Montague, Steven Sennett, Adriana Gantzer

By Tina Arth

So – a physicist and an artist walk into a bar…could be the beginning of a terrible joke or a wonderful play. Picasso at the Lapin Agile, by the mega talented comic/actor/musician/writer Steve Martin, is definitely the latter. In Mask & Mirror’s current production of this multi-layered work, director Benjamin Philip and his cast capture most of Picasso’s philosophical nuance while delivering a terribly funny evening of sometimes very broad comedy.

Imagine a Paris bar, the Lapin Agile, in 1904. Bartender Freddy is setting up for the evening’s business as a series of characters wander in. First is the curmudgeonly Gaston, grumbling about his status as “newly old.” Next comes Freddy’s girlfriend Germaine, the smart, cynical barmaid. What looks like an ordinary evening shifts with the arrival of a young, socially awkward patent office drone named Albert Einstein. Two more arrivals are the nubile Suzanne and Sagot, a mercenary but thoughtful art dealer – both in thrall to the as yet unseen but much talked about Pablo Picasso. Suzanne wants his body, Sagot the body of his work. Finally, in struts Picasso himself – and thus begins a surreal mental duel between two very different geniuses, each on the verge of work that will set the tone for both the scientific and artistic earthquakes that shake and shape the 20th century.

While the show is in many ways dominated by the interaction between Picasso and Einstein, some of the evening’s best performances come from comparatively minor characters. Steven Sennett is quietly riveting as Freddy, seemingly a bit dense and plebian but always watching, commenting with his eyes on the absurdity around him. It is no mistake that playwright Martin gives Freddy the best line in the play – the one that neatly encapsulates the whole theme – and Sennett’s performance is worthy of this honor.  Diana LoVerso turns in another fine, low-key performance, creating a wryly-intelligent Sagot, a mercenary with heart and taste; her timing is superb and she moves around the stage with the grace of a dancer. On the other end of the spectrum, one character in the show must be played over-the-top – loud, gauche, and just so pathetically wrong – and Les Ico’s Charles Dabernow Schmendiman is all that and more. Ico is a born comic, and he brings all he’s got to this marvelous little cameo of a role.

Erik Montague (Einstein) is earnestly funny in Act I, treating his character with a gently appropriate mockery. As the play progresses, Montague’s performance gets broader, and at some point he crosses the line between absurd and ridiculous (as when he enters with glasses askew after the amorous interlude with the Countess). A little restraint would go a long way toward helping the audience accept that this is, while surreal, still a young Einstein and not Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor. Even in mid-run this slight shift could be easily achieved. His artistic counterpart, Blaine Vincent (as Picasso) skirts with excess in a few places, but overall manages to rein in the slapstick while delivering his character’s stunningly egotistical lines with a nonchalant enthusiasm.

In keeping with the reality of 1904 (and well beyond – maybe “time’s up” now?) the primary female characters are drawn largely as accessories. Jayne Furlong gives us exactly what we expect – a “Suzanne” who is flirty, pouty, shallow, easily offended but eager to hitch her wagon to a star. Adriana Gantzer is quieter and subtler as the earthy but intelligent barmaid Germaine. I have seen the part played with more of a coarse, slatternly bent, and I much prefer Gantzer’s interpretation.

The single barroom set, with its lovely faux brick walls, contributes immeasurably to the show’s Parisian barroom ambience. Special props to lighting designer John Swiecick and light board operator Steve Hotaling for a series of carefully timed effects (especially with the much-maligned sheep painting) that work beautifully, enhancing both the comedic and thematic messages.

Mask & Mirror’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile runs Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm through March 25th at “The Stage” at Calvin Church, 10445 SW Canterbury Lane, Tigard, 97224.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BCT’s The 39 Steps – Slapstick Spies and Keystone Kops

Daniel Wagner, Evan Wade, and Adam Williams

By Tina Arth

The program for Beaverton Civic Theatre’s latest reads: “The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow, based on the novel by John Buchan.” Perhaps this is technically accurate. However, a more artistically valid and helpful descriptor would be “The 39 Steps, a parody by Patrick Barlow based on the film by Alfred Hitchcock.” It is the iconic 1935 film that made Hitchcock a star in the United States, and it is Hitchcock’s take on the early motifs of murder/mystery/spy fiction that are mocked and celebrated in the playwright’s hilarious 2004 play.  Although relatively inexperienced, Director Amy Millay has done a nice job of steering her four cast members through the (literally) dozens of roles they fill in a complex, fast-moving show that combines melodrama with Marxian (the brothers, not Karl) madness.

The story is fundamentally irrelevant – the script is there only to give the actors and crew a reason to hang out on and around the stage, amusing us and working up quite a sweat in the process. A bored, seriously underemployed (but apparently well-heeled) Canadian, Richard Hannay, is swept into international intrigue when a glamorous and mysterious spy, Annabella, is murdered in his London flat. To clear his name and prevent unspeakable (if unspecified) disaster, Hannay sets out by train to look for Alt Na Shellach, a large estate in Scotland somehow connected to the assassins and their dastardly plot. Pursued by policemen and spies (and, occasionally, spies disguised as policemen), betrayed by the skeptical traveler Pamela, and aided by the amorous farm wife Margaret, Hannay eventually makes his way back to London and the truth is revealed.

The key to the show’s humor, other than some very clever writing, is Millay’s energetically farcical direction of her four-person cast. Evan Wade plays Hannay throughout, while Lesley Nadwodnik plays three key female roles (Annabella, Pamela, and Margaret). Two extraordinarily versatile lads, Adam Williams (clown #1) and Daniel Wagner (clown #2), play all of the other roles, both male and female – the amazing Mr. Memory, policemen, spies, train conductors, Scots, innkeepers, even a political organizer. Lightning fast shifts between upper-class British, Cockney, both mild and dense Scottish accents, and some vaguely Gallic and Teutonic tongues, when combined with quick-change artistry and a plethora of challenging physical comedy, contribute to two acts that keep the audience in stitches.

Nadwodnik’s three characters are all 1950s style bottle blondes, - but that’s where the overlap ends. She is a convincingly stereotyped femme fatale as Annabella, and does a fine job of flopping bonelessly about as her character’s corpse. As Pamela, Nadwodnik is suddenly veddy British and very, very upright and uptight – while her Margaret is naïve, a bit dowdy, and love struck in a calf-like way.  Evan Wade, playing only one character, misses out on most of the quick-change fun, but he still does a superb job with the physical comedy (watching him teeter across the Forth Bridge inspired just a touch of acrophobia), and his campaign speech is a wonder to behold.

It’s the clowns who really steal the show. While I have seen productions with more miraculous costume changes, Wagner and Williams have developed a tight choreography that elicited not just laughs, but occasional hoots and hollers from a rowdy opening night audience, and Wagner’s mobile face and rubber body alone would be worth the price of admission.

A stark geometric set with no fixed furniture or props allowed for quick scene changes (done with half lighting and enough frenetic hysteria so that the scene changes become part of the comedy), and costume designers Erin and Stacie Looney found just the right touch to suggest the many characters without overdoing the detail – amazing what a few hats, cloaks, and aprons can do!

The 39 Steps is pure farce – no need to look for themes deeper than BCT’s recognition that we all need to laugh. While definitely not aimed at children, the show is pretty family friendly, and many kiddos would get a real kick out of the production.

Beaverton Civic Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps runs through Saturday, March 17th at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium, with 8:00 pm shows on Friday and Saturday and 2:00 pm matinees on Sunday.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mouse-Masked Audience Mingles With Mousetrap Cast

Brian Reed, Carlyn Blount, Nick D'Ettorre plus masked audience members.
Photo by Casey Campbell Photography

By Tina Arth

Is there a theater-lover alive who has never seen The Mousetrap? Agatha Christie’s classic murder-mystery holds the record for longest running show in the history of London’s West End – it opened in 1952, and has yet to close. Access to London is irrelevant, as the show has been produced countless times in practically every English-speaking theater on Earth, from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to, well, Beaverton. Here’s a tip – whether you’re new to the show or know it like the back of your hand, you’ll enjoy the Experience Theatre Project’s innovative take on the production. For Mousetrap newbies there is the challenge of trying to puzzle out the mystery (hint – with one exception, none of them are exactly who they seem to be), while veterans get the fun of watching the many subtle ways that the actors try to lead the audience astray. But the real highlight is that the Experience staging is done as “an immersive mystery experience” – instead of the conventional stage/audience divide, the spectators are seated all over the set, sharing space (and sometimes even props) with the actors.

Director (and Experience Theatre Project Managing Director) Alisa Stewart plays every angle to ensure that the audience gets a full immersion. When we enter, each audience member is issued a papier-mâché mouse mask – great for helping us get into the mood, and very useful in differentiating audience from actors. We are encouraged to prowl around the set before the show starts, examining the mostly authentic antique furniture and props in search of clues before we take our seats and allow the play to unfold all around us. Once the show starts, actors walk all around us, occasionally handing us props or grabbing an available knee (mine, to be precise). Depending on where you are seated, you may need to turn or stretch a bit to follow all of the action, but blocking and set design create sightlines cleverly arranged so that nobody needs to miss anything critical.

The story itself is the quintessential British manor mystery, with a group of apparent strangers confined (in this case by a snowstorm) to a few rooms in a remote location, with telephone lines cut and murder in the air. In an earlier decade, three children had been placed in a terrible foster home, and one of the children had died of the neglect. The other two children are now grown; one of them has killed the abusive foster mom and left a note suggesting that the revenge will not stop with one murder. The action takes place in a nearby guesthouse, where the two hosts and five guests have no apparent connection to the tragedy – until the arrival (on skis, no less) of Sergeant Trotter, who is convinced that both a murderer and a prospective victim are among the residents. By the end of Act I one dead body proves that Trotter’s suspicions are valid, and the game’s afoot.

Given the genre and proximity to the audience, a touch of melodrama is unavoidable – in fact, the gently over-the-top performances of a few key characters add a lot of fun. Janice Moss (as the thoroughly obnoxious, appallingly entitled Mrs. Boyle) does a fine job - her accent and affect are perfect for the character you love to hate, and she sets the tone for 1950’s British class distinctions superbly. Another top-notch performance comes from Murren Kennedy, whose scattered, passionate but erratic “Christopher Wren” throws off clues and misdirection galore.  Kennedy’s tense standoff with Nick D’Ettorre (as host Giles Ralston) injects a note of believable fire into the production, and allows Carlyn Blount (as Mollie Ralston) to display a range of controlled hysteria as she negotiates between the two bucks, each determined to protect her. James Luster deftly displays a radical personality shift as we learn more about the organized and authoritative Sergeant Trotter, and Brian Reed’s “Mr. Paravicini,” the unexpected guest, provides some wonderful moments as a red herring.

Stewart’s production team does a top-notch job in the challenging “immersive mystery” environment – from the detailed and authentic set pieces to elaborately timed lighting and sound cues. Appropriately, the overall audience experience at this Experience Theatre production is unique, engaging, and well worth a visit. Seating is limited, so patrons are advised to purchase tickets in advance at

Experience Theatre Project’s The Mousetrap runs through Sunday, March 11th at 12604 SW Farmington Rd., Beaverton, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Wedding of the Century No Great Art, Lots of Laughs

Glenna Nolte, Renae Iversen, Laurie Bishop, and Cathy Aicher
Photo by Carl Dahlquist

By Tina Arth

HART’s latest production, The Wedding of the Century, is the North American premiere of an often hilarious comedy by New Zealand playwright Devon Williamson, and the opening night audience clearly saw a lot to laugh at in the innovative and original story of an ancient nun living out her last days in a nursing home. Director Mark Putnam and his cast are clearly having a fine time on stage, and their attitude is somewhat infectious. However, the play has a few significant problems – my general impression is that there is a really nice comedy buried in there, but that Mr. Williamson would benefit from collaborating with a skilled script doctor to refine the work, editing out some extraneous and occasionally juvenile (if sometimes funny) material and helping to augment the comedy with a bit more serious exploration of key themes in the core story.

The play takes place over a 7-day period in one room at the Rest In Peace Rest Home and Funeral Home (the first clue that some of the humor is not particularly sophisticated). The home’s oldest resident, retired nun Sister Dorothy, is approaching her 100th birthday, much to the delight of rest home operator Maxine. A Goth teen, Jessica, appears in the room, intent on using interviews with Sister Dorothy for a school project. Jessica looks sufficiently diabolical that other residents of the home (Nelly and Phyllis) consistently mistake her for Satan, but the old nun quickly sees through the Jessica’s hard outer shell to the angst-ridden adolescent underneath. Dorothy tells Jessica of her early years in India, in particular about a handsome young chai wallah (tea seller) named Aditya. Challenged to start a bucket list (at 99!) Dorothy surprises everyone by admitting that her one unfulfilled desire is to get married. Although they have no idea who the groom will be, Nelly, Phyllis, and Jessica embrace the plan enthusiastically, while Maxine is less thrilled (she has been planning an elaborate 100th birthday party, and does not want a fantasy wedding to get in the way).  The show leaves the audience laughing with a nicely unexpected Bollywood touch.

While the acting is at times uneven, there are several very funny performances. Sarah Cunningham’s “Jessica” has some great moments, and many of her more awkward scenes can be attributed to the writing, rather than the acting or direction. Although Laurie Bishop (Nelly) sometimes has trouble with her lines, she uses her voice to great effect, and the character’s direct, abrasive, but fundamentally appealing persona comes through quite nicely. Glenna Nolte does a great job of capturing the loveable ditziness of the senile Phyllis, and she grabs many of the show’s best laughs as she bounces between her various realities. As wedding planner apprentice Raphael, Spencer Putnam shows no inhibition, putting all of his character’s fey naiveté onstage to the delight of an appreciate audience. Cathy Aicher does her best in the lead role as Sister Dorothy, but her part suffers from a shortage of either humor or character development that would offer her more of an opportunity to shine.

William Crawford and Mark Putnam’s set design is effective in using the relatively small HART stage to create both Dorothy’s room and a nice courtyard, allowing the several scenes with no scene changes (always a plus, in my opinion). Karen Roder’s costume design and elaborate lobby display enrich the visual contrast between Sister Dorothy’s lifelong Catholicism and her youthful brush with Hindu culture.

While there are, as noted, problems with the script, The Wedding of the Century packs a lot of laughs into just over two hours, and attending a show like this can provide a great distraction from the annoyances and angst of daily life.

The Wedding of the Century runs through Sunday, February 25th with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays at HART Theater, 185 S.E. Washington, Hillsboro.