Cheryl Rankin VanStockum, Ronnie Veech, Dan Hanlon and Betty Zielinski in “The Nightingales”

The Nightingales

By Peter Quilter
Directed by Rick Reinle
Reviewed by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2013 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

The Nightingales is a slight comedy saved by some sharp dialogue and crucial character interaction in the second act that rescue it from a passive and ordinary plot. The production currently at Little Colonel’s Playhouse is overall a mixed bag in its effects, failing to make the most of the script’s meager pleasures but managing to generate good cheer all the same.

A portrait of a theatrical family in 1950’s England in which the parents, Charlie and Beatrice, have retired to leave their son, Jack to carry on the tradition with a partner, Maggie, it comes off as a minor farce that lets its toe occasionally dip into soapy waters. The paterfamilias is more than a little eccentric, and the plot (such as it is) turns on a small marital crisis between him and Maggie. There is also a housekeeper of questionable competence named Geraldine.

It’s the kind of material that can be made to work if played with the skill and timing necessary to fish out the subtle opportunities of characterization. After the slow build of Act one, the second half does include some good scenes that start to move out of shallow waters. Beatrice has a nice moment explaining herself while Jack and Maggie allow their relationship, heretofore strictly professional, to move in a new direction. After struggling through the earlier scenes, the three actors find some quality and understated emotional truths before the inevitable happy ending.

Ronnie Veech and Cheryl Rankin VanStockum are stalwart leads as Jack and Maggie, and they have reasonable comic chemistry. Dan Hanlon and Pat Wetherton play it a bit more broadly as Charlie and Beatrice, with Mr. Hanlon displaying a hambone heart while Ms. Wetherton earns her laughs with a lighter touch. Betty Zielinski’s Geraldine is the least developed character, and seems too cliché. The entire cast attempts English dialects that are entirely inconsistent and indistinct, with at least one coming off as more Down Under than British Isles. Accents are hard work, although the action of the play is so specifically tied to the geography of the English Channel that I suppose the director might have felt there was no option but to have the cast play it as British, but it is always tricky business. In this instance, it proved distracting more often than reinforcing.

For the most part the cast earned their laughs with upstanding work, yet there could certainly have been more snap in the delivery, and some of the early scenes don’t entirely overcome tedium. Fortunately, the energy built after the intermission keeps the play afloat, and seemed to prove a pleasing experience for the opening night audience. Still, this strikes me as another middling entry that characterizes the complacency of choice that dogs to many community theatres.

The Nightingales

December 5, 6, 7, 13, & 14, 2013 @ 8:00
December 8 and 15, 2013 @ 2:30
Tickets are $15 for Adults and $12 for Seniors (60+) and students. Reservations strongly recommended by calling 588-1557.
LCP does NOT accept credit cards, so please come prepared.

Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mt. Mercy Drive
Crestwood, KY 40014