The Gingerbread Lady

By Cindy Paul

     In the past 37 years, Lakeside Little Theatre has NEVER (that I know of) missed an opening-until The Gingerbread Lady. Before, if an actor couldn't make it, someone read the part from a script. Well, so much for "the show must go on!" Almost 20 years ago I had the pleasure of working in this same play at LLT. I won't do "I remember when," but I know the play very well. Bear that in mind as you read my review:
     To begin, the positive aspects of the production were many. It's a nice play, with good characters and a lot of laughs, and overall the cast did a good job with it. Blocking was well thought out and everyone seemed prepared and comfortable. The deep set, a lovely salmon pink with complex corners, was gorgeous. In my opinion, the play was fine, but lacked intensity. I saw many line anticipations on the part of the cast, and often had the feeling of ennui from them. This communicates itself to the audience. Obviously not a great thing.
     The play is about an aging alcoholic club singer, Evy, who is on the downside of her career, and Evy's daughter, who moves away from her father's house to live with Evy and re?bond, and the "lovable losers" in Evy's life. It's Evy's story. Joyce Vath turned in the most credible per- formance I have seen from her yet. She had a grasp of the character and understanding of her foibles, and conveyed this clearly. However, she seemed a bit lackluster at times, but perhaps that was due to the physical problems which caused her to be unable to perform the first two nights. Sue Breitfeller played the 26-year-old daughter well but, with childish lines meant for a 15-year old, such as, "Stop apologizing to me, you're my mother," she had a hard row to hoe. This actress seemed much more secure on-stage, however, than in the past, and her diction was excellent. I give her a lot of credit just for tackling the part. Sue is a good actress, and fun to listen to and look at.
     The director, who did a very nice job in most other aspects, made a choice which bothered me: pre- sumably in order to accommodate Lakeside's admittedly restrictive acting pool, the part of the 15-year-old daughter was changed to a 26-year old. This decision undermined and muddied the story line. Right next-door to the Little Theatre is Oak Hill School, with dozens of teenage kids who might be natural actresses, such as Jessica, who played Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. I cast the children in The Sound of Music out of that school, and they were all uninhibited and wonderful. If the director simply did not want to use a real live teenager, then this play should have been trashed until it could be properly cast. Many directors are hesitant to change a script, but Clippinger Keener is not one of them. She added several nifty lines about the Ajijic area and updated much of the dialog, which I liked. So why, oh why, did she leave in references to specific ages, 55 for Evy and 52 for Jimmy? Apart from the risk that our senior community actors might not live up to the image an audience has of a person that particular age, it yanks the viewer out of the play. That is a cardinal no-no, to be avoided at all costs. The technical aspects were generally very nicely tended to, though I take strenuous exception to the scene in which Evy "played" the piano and lip-synched to a familiar recording, (complete with hiss) by superstar Diana Krall. The sound came strictly out of the side speakers in the hall; it was ludicrous to expect the audience to believe Evy was truly singing and playing. Since the script defines Evy as a nightclub singer, it's crucial we believe that. Lip synching again yanked us out of the play and made it difficult for us to believe in Evy's character.
     Jimmy, Evy's gay failed-actor friend, was played with abandon by Jim Lloyd. He had fun, and consequently, so did we. The role calls for an emotional- basketball type, which he played with verve. Judy McKinnon, as Toby, was well cast and did a fine job. She made the most of her big moment in the second act. This is an attractive lady with great stage presence. Guillermo "Memo" Romero, as the delivery boy, was also a casting find. Everybody loved him, and to his credit, we could not only understand every word, but his comedic timing was excellent.
     Jack Vanesko, as loser-boyfriend Lou, had a nice first-time role and showed very good potential. I never had a problem believing his lines, just hearing them. Clear up that one item, and no telling how far he could go onstage!
     Stage managed by Lee Hughes, set designed by Ektor Carranza and Tod Jonson, and constructed by Robert Hall, Harry Dahlquist, Jim Parker, Jim French and Dan McTavish, with Carmen Carranza, Ron Richter and Betty Parker on Decor, lights by Don Chaloner, sound by Irma Ashley, Nolan Crutchfield on props and Doreen Chaloner on costume design.
All in all- Nice try.
-- One person's opinion.