Front Row Center
Guest Reviewer Harriet Hart
Not Now, Darling
Directed by Shirley Appelbaum
As a naïve prairie girl I moved to London, England in 1970 where I landed a job as receptionist in a Mayfair publishing firm. Within days, I realized that my main task was to keep wives and mistresses, husbands and lovers, apart. Sitting in the audience of the final performance of Lakeside Little Theatre’s production of Not Now, Darling, a British farce set in London in 1969, I time-traveled back. Do the Brits really behave this way? In my limited experience, indeed they do!
Co-author playwright Ray Cooney is a master of his genre. One critic says: “Cooney’s farces combine a traditional British bawdiness with structural complication, as characters leap to assumptions, are forced to pretend to be things that they aren’t and often talk at cross purposes to hilarious effect.” This style of writing forces the audience to pay close attention in order to follow the shenanigans on stage.
The play is set in Bodley, Bodley and Crouch’s Fur Salon in London’s West End. The lead, Gilbert Bodley, played by seasoned actor Fred Koesling, is a convincing cad. The plot revolves around Gilbert’s scheme to purchase a mink coat for his mistress-to-be by selling it to her gangster husband at a reduced rate, while he in fact pays for it. His partner, Arnold Crouch, played by Lakeside newcomer, Orry Robb, is shocked at his partner’s plan. Robb was perfect as the stick-in-the-mud, prissy furrier. Florette Schnelle made a fetching Janie McMichael, the sexpot prepared to do anything to get her mink, including stripping naked and screaming from the salon’s balcony.
Peter Luciana played her slightly sinister husband, who secretly plans on buying this very mink coat for his secretary, Sue Lawson, played by the lovely Candace Luciano. Both wife (Florette) and secretary (Candace) are fantastic in their roles as gorgeous girls who aren’t afraid to insist on getting their way, although the former is deliciously conniving and the latter simply and sweetly stubborn.
Georgette Richmond made a convincing suspicious wife and co-owner of Bodley and Bodley, while Collette Clavadetscher shone as the long suffering employee of the salon who secretly lusts after the straight-laced Mr. Crouch. Michael Warren was a superb, befuddled ex-Navy commander whose wife, Beryel Dorscht, keeps misplacing him. Newcomers to the stage, Beth Cathcart and Chet Beeswinger rounded out the cast playing a model and Sue Lawson’s jealous husband and gave charming performances.
In director Shirley Appelbaum’s hands, the play was quick-paced, witty and thoroughly entertaining. Scantily clad ladies popped in and out of a storage room or the liquor cabinet, underwear and furs were dropped off the balcony and husbands frequently appeared in the doorway looking for misplaced wives. It could have been confusing, but it wasn’t. No matter how mixed up the characters were, the audience was always one step ahead of them thanks to Appelbaum’s directing.
A special nod goes to stage manager Karen Lee for pulling it together and to set designer Dana Douin and her crew. The set was perfect as were the costumes: fur coats, mini dresses and even Vidal Sassoon styled wigs, all appropriate to the period. Not Now, Darling wound up a successful 48th season as Lakeside Little Theatre’s biggest box-office draw this year. Well done cast and crew. I’m looking forward to season 49.