Tuesday, November 26, 2013

‘Tis The Season to Be Silly at BCT!

If It's Monday, This Must Be Christmas plays at Beaverton Civic Theatre

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
Beaverton Civic Theatre’s 2013 season has taken its audiences on a wild ride from the sublime to the ridiculous. After the somberly enthralling production of The Crucible, this versatile troupe brings us If It’s Monday, This Must Be Christmas, a piece of holiday fluff that ends the year on a much lighter note.

John Ollis as Harry Monday
Author Pat Cook began his prolific career as a playwright after being inspired by Neil Simon. While Cook’s script is often clever, Mr. Simon can rest easy – Cook’s work is no challenge to such classic comedies as The Odd Couple and Plaza Suite. Happily, by late November theater audiences are sometimes less interested in great writing than in silly comedy, which Cook delivers with a vengeance.
The story? Good heavens! The gift-wrapped payroll for Harrigan’s Department Store has disappeared, along with the store’s Santa Claus. Whodunit? Store employee Loretta Mondello calls in her son, private eye/dogwalker Harry Monday, whose bumbling detective style ultimately cracks the case (of the missing money – inexplicably, Santa never does turn up…). Along the way, mayhem ensues (two acts worth)!

The “bumbling detective” (who is really quite shrewd) is a stock mystery character. However, Harry Monday, as portrayed by John Ollis, defies the stereotype – lots of bumble, not much shrewd. Ollis frequently breaks the “fourth wall”, addressing the audience in a friendly but conspiratorial tone that keeps us on track with the show’s convoluted plot.

Allen Denison portrays Harry’s occasional sidekick, pickpocket Louie Grandville, with aplomb.  Denison gives us the perfect con man: slightly shady but smooth and articulate.  Rival department store owner Mildred Wolensky is portrayed by Helena Greathouse, whose Czech accent, combined with a pronounced declamatory style, creates a curiously compelling character.  

Allen Denison as Louie Grandville
What passes for love interest in the show comes from the relationship between store employee Carson Page (Les Ico) and store owner’s daughter Penny Harrigan (Harmony Rutter).  These two young actors deliver some of the most natural and believable moments in the play. The other two younger performers also bring their best games. Kassy Williams does a great job of portraying Polly Brogan, a nagging little brat in search of Santa, and Riley Edwards (Harry Monday as a child) shows so much moxie that one wonders how he grew into the bumbling adult version of the character.

Patti Speight brings all the intensity of a ticking biological clock to the role of Scarlett Kloontz, and Patrick Brassell (store owner Titus Harrigan) is appropriately bombastic. Patricia Herkert creates a frenetically wide-eyed and perky elf who ranges from excitable to downright hysterical.

Director George Herkert has assembled a fine production team. The set, while simple, is attractive and appropriate, and the costumes capture the spirit of the characters. The huge opening-night crowd proved a bit distracting – many audience members were seated in portable chairs along the aisle with less than optimal sight lines, and the show began more than ½ hour late. Perhaps the time has come for BCT to reconsider their admirable “donate two books, get in for $5.00” opening night promotion – maybe by selecting a slower evening (or matinee) for this attractive deal.

Beaverton Civic Theatre’s production of If It’s Monday, This Must Be Christmas runs through Sunday, December 8th at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium, with 8:00 pm shows on Friday and Saturday and 2:00 pm matiness on Sunday.

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