Play review: 'Leading Ladies'

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Deirdre Parker Smith
They did it again. Following the excellent production of “The Graduate,” Piedmont Players has presented the hilarious farce, “Leading Ladies.”
With another great cast, the show zips right along, despite a few opening night misfires.
Marc Trent Tucker (Leo) and Jonathan Furr (Jack) successfully (mostly) adopt British accents along with female alter-egos in order to get a couple of million off an old lady’s inheritance. They masquerade as the woman’s long-lost British nieces, promised part of her $3 million estate.
The other niece, perky, positive Meg, is played perfectly by Jessica Walker. She actually is a woman. Really.
Furr is far funnier as a femme fatale than hapless Jack. He seems amazingly comfortable as a woman.
Tucker, a Piedmont veteran of many genres, is a charming rogue with the sweetest personality. His Maxine is the gentle maven of stage and sound advice.
Their scheme to defraud Florence and her niece is immediately fraught with difficulties.
It’s not that the out-of-work British actors can’t pull off the deception. They’re just faced with characters more colorful than any they’ve played.
Although the cute but dim Audrey (Beth Porter) has told Jack and Leo that Florence is dead, she’s very much alive and mad as heck at her doctor. The always-charming Carole Davis draws some of the biggest laughs as the cantankerous Florence. Philip Shore is a supercilious doctor with a lecherous eye and a hick son, Butch, who wants to marry Audrey. Johnny “JB” Johnson does a good job as Butch, and he sure looks cute in those tights.
Porter has the smart but clueless Audrey down pat and looks like she’s having a lot of fun.
Fun-killer Duncan is the boring reverend Meg is supposed to marry. Michael Henry Carter, as the party-pooper, doesn’t like acting (Meg loves it), doesn’t like to go out at night (Meg loves that, too) but really likes the idea of Meg’s inheritance from Florence. Carter is by turns a proper pastor and a greedy grabber. It’s so much fun to see him get his comeuppance after all his strutting and fretting.
Together they form a cohesive cast that easily handled all the elements of a concealed-identity farce. It’s hard to go wrong with that formula. It worked for Shakespeare.
One bit of advice for the cast: Draw out the laughs. While the audience is guffawing, hold your lines. Let them laugh, then move on. The appreciative opening night audience awarded the cast with a standing ovation after their hard work.
Director and designer Reid Leonard got the mix just right. His set of stairs and multiple doors is simple and unfussy, making the manic entrances and exits easier.
At just over 2 1/2 hours (including a long 15-minute intermission), this summer offering is just what you need to get through the dog days.
You’ll enjoy the belly laughs.
“Leading Ladies,” underwritten by the Salisbury Post and Wooden Stone, continues tonight and Saturday and July 23-26 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:30 p.m. matinee this Sunday. Tickets are available by calling 704-633-5471 or visiting the box office at the Meroney Theater, 213 S. Main St.