Play review: St. Thomas Players excel in ‘You Never Can Tell’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

“You Never Can Tell,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in his play.
Well, I’ll tell you one thing, St. Thomas Players’ production of the Victorian-era comedy is as fun and refreshing as a day at the seaside.
A few bobbled lines on opening night in the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre at Catawba College were the only dim spots, but everyone has lots of words to remember.
I’m not sure about the era of some of the costumes, but the play’s the thing and the experienced cast certainly entertained.
Veteran local actors Jennifer Hubbard as silly Dolly, Jonathan Furr as mischievous Philip, Marc Trent Tucker as the appropriately named Mr. Valentine and Gary Thornburg as Mr. Crampton (wonderful name) really bring life to the play.
Len Clark, with his authentic British accent, and Jamison Middlemiss as his fussy son Mr. Bohun, are very funny. Clark has the usual understated performance that comes across as the proper way to play the head waiter. Middlemiss, all officious and opinionated, has not one joke, but lots of very funny pronouncements.
The story is of the Clandon family, Mrs. Clandon, played by Anne Cave, Dolly, Phil and Gloria, played by the lovely Frances Bendert. Mother has long since rid herself of her annoying and abusive husband, and none of the children remember him or even know his name.
Mrs. Clandon is a thoroughly modern woman who has raised her children as totally unsentimental and completely free to speak their minds, which they do, often. Loudly.
She has them all back in England because the time has come when a father is necessary, for propriety’s sake.
Enter grumpy, mean, bah-humbug Mr. Crampton, played with great Scrooginess by Gary Thornburg. Could he be the one?
The two solicitors, Mr. Bohun and Finch McComas, played by Preston Mitchell, have a fine time with the finer points of the “separation deed.”
Mr. Valentine woos Gloria by being unsentimental, which, of course, arouses her feelings for the first time.
Dolly and Phil are wonderful at creating mischief, and Hubbard plays the precocious child to a T, complete with knowing looks and silly gestures. Furr matches her well.
Mrs. Clandon is firm in her ideas and only occasionally caught by conventions of the day. She needs to speak up a bit, because even in the small theater, there is a back row.
It’s good to see Tucker back on stage. As Valentine, he is a charming love interest, not to mention a clever talker.
Amber Adams, a veteran actress at Carson High School, is the young parlor maid.
Claudia Galup had a good group to direct รณ one that understands comedy and appreciates Shaw’s wit. With David Pulliam’s simple set, the cast looks right at home.
The production’s sponsoring partners are United Beverages of NC LLC and University Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.
The comedy continues tonight and Saturday and June 24-27 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For information, call 704-647-0999.