Stage West Theatre’s latest production Screwball Comedy is a homage to the genre of… you guessed it… screwball comedy. The genre was popular during the Great Depression and usually satirizes the traditional love story. During the 1930s there was a rise in demand for films and storylines that critiqued social class, and screwball comedy was an answer to this demand that also worked within the Hays Code that films were subjected to at the time.
Norm Foster’s play is a homage to this genre and has all the elements come together to make the production a delightful experience. Screwball Comedy features the strong female lead Mary Hayes (Ellen Denny) who challenges the male lead Jeff Kincaid (Al Braatz). In this case Jeff is a superstar reporter who has lost his spark and Editor in Chief Bosco Godfrey (Andrew Scanlon) brings in Mary to lets sparks fly, so to speak. Jeff and Mary are assigned to cover a society wedding and whoever writes the better piece, gets the reporter job. The wedding is between Chauncey Diddle (Gregory Pember) and Gloria Fontana (Susie Burnett) and Chauncey’s mother Delores Diddle (Elinor Holt) is sure that Gloria is just marrying her son for the family fortune. Rounding out the comedy is Peter Terwilliger (Jeremy Lapalme) who is engaged to Delores, Reginald the butler (Scanlon) and Jonesy (Burnett) the secretary to Bosco.
The way that director J. Sean Elliott has carved out this characters for comedy is something to behold. Braatz and Denny have chemistry and are able to handle Foster’s dialogue like they are playing a tennis match. The comedic gold belongs to Holt and Pember and Burnett’s Fontana is one of the funniest characters on stage. Holt is dramatic and over the top, and it is a riot, especially when it is paired with Pember who is eccentric and smart while appearing dense. The laughs all belong to Burnett though, as she struts around the stage, oozing sass, glamour and satire. Scanlon’s Reginald is the only character that grates a bit, as he always makes his exits with a long drawn out joke and it wears eventually.
Anton De Groot’s set design makes use of the smaller stage, with a simple door and panels to depict Godfrey’s office, that opens up to the living room at the Diddle residence. Costume design by Norman J. Glenza-MacDonald and Ralamy Kneeshaw sets the play in the time period with hats and dresses and hair all styled for the 1930s. Ajay Badoni’s lighting design and Michael Gesy’s sound design round out the production.
Stage West’s production of Screwball Comedy is a funny, strong production with a talented cast. Tickets and more information is available online.