Stacie McCutcheon & J.P. Lebangood. Photo: Little Colonel Playhouse
By Don Gordon
Directed by George Robert Bailey
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Panache is a fresh take on the romantic comedy genre. It spends a good deal of its running time pretending its an idiosyncratic
buddy comedy before it eventually settles down to the business of connecting the couple in question.
Or maybe I’m just too gullible, but I never took it for granted where the central relationship would end up.
The buddies are opposites: Harry Baldwin (J.P. Lebangood) is a short-order cook and inveterate gambler living in a crummy Brooklyn apartment, while Kathleen Trafalgar (Stacie McCutcheon) is an upper-crust socialite who spends her days at the country club. She has used her influence to track Harry down because she wants her husband to have a vanity license plate with the word, “panache”, but it has already been taken; by Harry.
Harry has a pretty good story to explain his attachment to that word, a flashback of romantic melancholy played out by Andy Szuran as Irwin and Magdalen Hartman as Laura. Kathleen is persistent enough that he has no choice but to share the memory, and the revelation is the beginning of an unlikely friendship.
Kathleen is intrigued and excited by her exposure to a lower-rent lifestyle and takes to Blackjack like a fish takes to water, cleaning out Harry and his seedy pal Jumbo Dumbroski (G.B. Dixon). At the same time, Harry’s apartment becomes increasingly less grungy as Harry becomes more and more invested in Kathleen, even caddying for her when she stages a golf rematch with a country club rival.
Panache feels more Harry’s story than Kathleen’s, primarily because of the flashback sequences and the gimmick of having Irwin and Laura manifested in Harry’s here and now, but also because the setting for the entire play is Harry’s apartment. He is also an artist, and the apartment is liberally decorated with his abstract paintings (by Indiana painter Dru Pilmer).
J.P. Lebangood is well cast as Harry. He is suitably gruff, with a lackadaisical, hound dog physicality but there is also intelligent compassion that makes sense of Kathleen’s fascination. And Stacie McCutcheon is a perfect foil, endearingly ditzy and shallow at first, then increasingly finding depth through humor and pathos. Together, Lebangood and McCutcheon make for a winning pair.
G.B. Dixon is the epitome of every two-bit hustler from every 1970s television series, and Andy Szuran and Magdalen Hartman are vivid spirits from Harry’s subconscious.
The design work is nicely realized, and Kathleen’s wardrobe is uptown enough but never phony. The set is among the shabbiest I’ve seen on a Little Colonel stage, with a card table featuring a precarious card table that barely stays upright. The generous number of paintings and studies are easily the most distinctive element.
Panache may not be transformative, but it is genial, rich in character, fresh and engaging.
March 29, 30, April 4, 5, & 6 @ 7:30pm
March 31 & April 7 @ 2:00pm
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, Kentucky 40056
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.
2019 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by