by Jay Gipson-King
Accidentally Yours, playing at Brush Creek Playhouse and directed by Michael Wood, is an uneven affair, but what it lacks in gloss it makes up for with rough enthusiasm.
Billed as a “comic farce,” the humor is not of the manic, door-slamming variety, but of mistaken identity and improbable situations. The plot revolves around a frustrated yet wishful writer, his supportive yet wacky family, and a mysterious Arabian lamp. Mishaps ensue. The tying and untying of the plot is reminiscent of turn-of-the-century French farces, with a fair bit of innuendo (Nothing explicit. I rate it PG). It is rather like a longer, more complex episode of I Love Lucy.
Accidentally Yours was written in 1949 by Pauline Williams Snapp, and the dating shows in interesting ways: the three-act structure and slower pacing, long-set ups for simple sight gags, and, of course, language (“this is my twenty-fifth spinster summer” jumped out as the strongest cultural and linguistic anachronism). Curiously, the large cast of fifteen also stood out as a product of the play’s times. No straight play since 1950 has been written with so many actors, many with simple walk-on roles; post-war Broadway economics make such ventures too expensive. Brush Creek’s production sets the play in a nebulous past, with 1940s music but cordless house phones. The overall tone evokes nostalgia for simpler times.
The performances are mixed, and many actors had first-night jitters. Shannon Copeland plays the credulous writer, Spencer Mosby, with wide-eyed earnestness. Kelly Lazar gives Vivienne Mosby, Spencer’s “spinster” niece, intelligence and self-assurance. (Why a niece? Presumably, like Donald Duck’s nephews, she is an invested blood-relation, but without the messiness of being an actual daughter—another product of the times.) Much of the play’s fun comes from the oddball supporting cast, who, for the most part, deliver: the put-upon maid, her “punk” boyfriend, the uptight secretary, the frantic publisher (played with glee and a fair bit of scenery chewing by Norman Gouveia). Other performances fell short. Phillip Wade put on the charm as boyfriend Lawrence, but his choices were frequently unclear. Julie Mackinnon as the wife, Gladys Mosby, was shooting for (I believe) a 1950s television housewife, but she came across as simpering and pouty.
Opening night featured a crowded, boisterous house for Brush Creek, with a gaggle of older ladies singing along to the classic tunes played during scene changes. They laughed throughout and clearly had a good time. I left disappointed. I always want Brush Creek either to be a rougher theatre that befits the school house, or else a much cleaner theatre that befits the play choices (Broadway comedies). This one fell in the middle. It was also very long, clocking in at over three hours. This production is fun and silly and funny; just don’t look at the seams too closely. Accidentally Yours runs through April 24.
Good night, sweet prince.
April 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616. April 23 is also, we conjecture, Shakespeare’s birthday (based on a Christening of April 26, 1564). Theatre people all over the world are geeking out about this, Salem folks included. You have several local options to get you Bard on: Shakespeare at the market every Saturday (see details last issue), a film series of BBC performances at the Salem Cinema, and two high school productions (Othello at West Salem, April 21–30, and Romeo & Juliet at McNary, April 28–May 7). Also look for a Shakespeare season for 2016–2017 at Willamette University.
What more needs to be said about Shakespeare? What more can be said? In 1938, theatre theorist Antonin Artaud said to burn all masterpieces, starting with Shakespeare; it was the only way to make way for the new. And yet we return to this master craftsman, again and again, like to no other playwright in the history of theatre. However you choose to celebrate (or ignore) this 400th anniversary, the Bard’s mark on the world is indelible. Happy birthday!
“‘They seek him here, they seek him there,” Jay Gipson-King is a local educator and theatre artist, and Salem Weekly’s Salem Pimpernel. Keep up with Jay and see the full list of area auditions and performances at facebook.com/SalemTheatreNetwork.