Lauren Argo, Tony Prince, Brent Gettlefinger & Laura Ellis in Perfect Arrangement.
By Topher Payne
Directed by Christophor Gilbert
Reviewed by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2014, Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
From the first light strike upon the stage you are transported to the 1950’s, into a living room that looks like something straight out of I Love Lucy. Bob and Millie Martindale (Tony Price/Lauren Argo) and Jim and Norma Baxter (Brent Gettelfinger/Laura Ellis) are hosting a get together for Bob’s new boss at the State Department, Theodore Gunderson (Ted Lesley) and his wife Kitty (Meg Caudill). Canapés and drinks are flowing and the talk of the New Regime is the heavy topic of the evening.
That New Regime is what we now refer to as McCarthyism. A dark time in our nation’s history where Senator Joseph McCartney ordered the State Department to seek out those who he felt were threats to the American Way of Life. I won’t go into a whole Civics lesson on what all was involved with this hunt of immorality, but suffice it to say it was a scary time.
The reality of that adorable opening tableau is that Millie and Norma are coupled, as is Bob and Jim. They formed a perfect arrangement of marrying each other as heterosexual couples and they live in what one would presume to be a duplex residence, so that their lives are concealed on the inside, but seem normal to the outside world. Such domestic subterfuge was not uncommon in this period.
With the news of Bob’s new duties and Norma as his assistant they fret over how long they can keep their charade up, knowing that revealing their individual selves would mean being black listed for any potential jobs or even institutionalized. Bob assures everyone that he will figure out a way and that all will be okay.
When the career minded Barbara Grant (Kelsey Thompson), long thought to have been in bed with everyone in Washington and afar, visits the Martindale home, Millie is taken aback by the memory of a shared experience that she and Barbara had when she was a student in Quebec. When Barbara threatens to bring to light the true nature of the Martindales and the Baxters things get complicated. Soon concessions are made and unethical maneuvers are made at the State Department.
Of course, as one would expect, Sunderson learns of the transgressions that have occurred at his department and lets Bob know that Norma will be transferred to New York in one of their other bureaus, which would upset their perfect arrangement even more. This becomes the catalyst for changing history.
Kudos to the costume, scenery, and hairdressing departments for their spot on recreation of the1950’s. I especially liked Jim’s Archie comics look. Guest make-up artist Neill Robertson nailed the bright red lipstick and heavily rouged cheeks.
I can’t say enough about this cast. Ms. Argo can go from deadpan humorous reactions to uncomfortable questions by talking about the kind of product she uses around the house as a housewife to carrying a banner high for equal and gay rights with ease. Mr. Gettelfinger’s young, intelligent and horny Jim was a delight. Mr. Prince was fabulous as Bob, a bureaucrat stuck between the life he loves and the job he needs. Ms. Thompson’s Barbara was everything you would think a modern woman who doesn’t give a darn about what other people think would be; direct, decisive and quick. Mr. Lesley’s Ted was the epitome of an older government tool totally out of touch with the realities of the society around him. Even more out of touch was Ms. Caudill’s deliciously played non-PC Kitty. It’s sad that there were (are) people like Kitty out there; you almost want to feel sorry for her. Last but certainly not least, Laura Ellis was enchanting as Norma, a woman wanting to live her life unashamed yet timid in making it so.
Perfect Arrangement is a play with humor, reverence and a battle cry, all done in a consistent and entertaining way. I walked away from the theater into the cold, snowy night appreciative of the strides that the pioneers in this story began. I think that you will too.
November 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 2014 @ 7:30 p.m.
November 16 & 23 @ 5:30 p.m.
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]