The set is elegant; the costumes are gorgeous. And under the direction of the astute Julie Price, a well-cast ensemble provides much hilarity and delight in Elgin Theatre Company’s current production of “Suite Surrender.”
The seldom-done farcical comedy (lots of slamming doors and innuendos) by Michael McKeever relays the tale of two 1942 Hollywood divas, Claudia McFadden and Athena Sinclair, who have descended upon the luxurious Palm Beach Royale Hotel to participate in a war effort fundraiser.
In the style of the legendary Davis-Crawford feud, Claudia and Athena are fierce competitors and rivals. Accompanied by their much under-appreciated assistants, the divas mistakenly have been booked into the same Presidential suite (quelle horreur). Naturally, there are other complications: the wealthy socialite who wants to sing with Claudia and brings the armed forces to the Royale for weekend leaves, a very harried hotel manager who is trying to keep the peace, two confused bellhops, and a scandal-driven reporter for the Palm Beach Tattler.
McKeever’s lines are laugh-out-loud funny, particularly when delivered by Tania Joy’s Claudia, Jennifer McHugh’s Athena, William Petersen’s Mr. Pippet, and Gabor Mark’s Mr. Dunlap. But the entire cast is adept at expressive facials and timing, so very necessary to carry off a comedy of this nature. And they do it well.
Joy, an actress well known to Woodstock Opera House audiences, is an exceptional Claudia McFadden. She’s shrewish, histrionic, sweet and gorgeous, a true blond bombshell star. McHugh’s Athena is a marvelously calmer, compelling diva of the six-husband genre (“I don’t think I have one now.”).
She also has a roving eye for younger men, as in bellhops, slightly off base because one of them, Francis, innocently and eagerly portrayed by the adorable Frankie Caputo, has had a past relationship with Murphy Stevens, Athena’s clever assistant played by an incandescent Maggie Dominick.
While Joy and McHugh are delicious virtuosos, much of the comic relief is delivered by Devon Ortiz as Otis the No. 1 fandom bellhop, Dianne Wawrzyniak as the matronly socialite Mrs. Osgood, and Elizabeth Ley as reporter Dora Del Rio. They are immersed in their characters.
But the definite show stealers are Gabor Mark (Mr. Dunlap) and William Petersen (Mr. Pippet). A very skilled actor, Mark is a master of injecting life into his character, and is always engaging and nuanced. Petersen’s reactions to Claudia’s constant shrieking and some mistakenly delivered red roses are both priceless and genuine. He has flair and commitment.
You’ll hear references ranging from FDR to entertainment greats Red Skelton and Edith Head – all in keeping with the time period. There’s even a brief appearance by a well-behaved, four-legged performer, Dusty, as Mr. Boodles, quickly endearing to the audience and obviously popular with the cast.
“Suite Surrender” is a pure pleasure romp of performance and words.
Tickets are available at the door on the day of performance. Online ticket sales close one hour prior to all performances.
Regina Belt-Daniels has loved acting since her starring role as Mother Goose in the first grade. She continues to do what she loves: direct, act, travel, teach, write theater reviews, and serve enthusiastically on theater boards throughout northern Illinois.
If you go
WHAT: "Suite Surrender"
WHERE: Elgin Art Showcase on eighth floor at 164 Division St., downtown Elgin
WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 7 and 8 and 2 p.m. Feb. 2 and 9
COST: $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors
INFO: elgin-theatre.org/nextprod2017.html, 847-741-0532