Seating on the Stage with Bay Players
The Bay Players have a cozy, little tradition in local theater. The long-lived community theater group amplified that coziness this past month with a production of Marc Camoletti's Don't Dress for Dinner. The group's performance: space at the Whitefish Bay High School Auditorium can feel pretty cavernous. Director Raymond Bradford welcomed audiences to the farce with onstage seating that gave the show the studio theatre feel that a romantic farce so desperately needs.
Kurt Poth and Donna McMaster were pleasantly comic as a married couple who are both secretly planning extramarital activity behind each other's backs. The convolutions of Camoletti's farce were aided immeasurably in proximity to the actors. Any decent actor can broadcast the comic discomfort to a larger space, but a small audience drawn around the action allows for subtlety and silence to simmer in around every pause and posture. The cast of the Bay Players took advantage of the proximity, lending Camoletti's humor a very believable ridiculousness.
The two women mixed up in matters slid around the action quite well. Katie Revae had a gracefully acute beauty about her as the hired cook forced to portray a lover a niece and more in and amidst the twists of the plot. NaQuita Bianca radiated a powerful charisma as the husband's mistress Suzie.
The complexities of the script in a production of Camoletti's farce always feel right on the edge of incomprehension, but the cast did a pretty good job of juggling the confusion and keeping everything feeling reasonably genuine. Mark Ninneman faltered around with Poth in the thicker distortions of intention as the lies dizzily twisted...the right momentum ever out of reach. There's something really transcendent about watching people play people pretending to be what they aren't while cast and audience alike sit on a stage in full view of a large, empty house. We're all there and we're all sharing in the art and the artifice. Turn around and there's the feeling that there's something greater going on that's lingering just above the theatricality of the theatrical experience. The Bay Players have been around for decades. Look out behind the production during intermission and there's the feeling of the full weight of the shadow of mystery in the group's history that stretches back through the decades.
Don't Dress For Dinner finished its run this past weekend. The Bay Players' next show is the Paul Freed comedy Death By Chocolate, which runs Jun 16-24. For more information, visit Bay Players online.