One Two Three by Ferenc Molnar, adapted by Morwyn Brebner. Directed by Eric Peterson.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"Oiling them so they’ll run smooth."
It is Molnar month in the Berkshire region. His play - a comic-tragedy, "Liliom," has been running at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts under its more musical title "Carousel." Now add to that his one-act farce "One Two Three" which has taken the stage at the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington, Vermont. No two plays could be more different from one another.
"Carousel" unfolds its magical-realism story slowly and carefully, covering sixteen years in an ill-fated relationship. "One Two Three" performs is entire hysterical yarn in real-time, one hour and ten minutes. As directed by Eric Peterson, this is a delight not to be missed.
We are in an executive suite in Manhattan in the early 1960s. Norrison, the head of a large and powerful company has been baby-sitting the daughter of a potential investor whose capital will make a major difference in how Norrison operates in the future. Just before a trip to the country to be with his wife and children, Lydia - the visiting girl, announces she is married and pregnant and that her husband is a very lowly, communist-card-carrying taxi driver named Harry Foote. She also tells Norrison that her very concerned parents are due to arrive by train in an hour to meet Harry. Norrison has just that amount of time to convert the slob into an aristocratic snob, against the poor boy’s wishes, who will satisfy the snooty requirements of Lydia’s father.
It is just that amount of time that encompasses the play and director Peterson keeps the proceedings completely on schedule.
Paul Falzone is all business in this hilarious comedy as Norrison. He pulls no punches while pulling every string and pushing every button at his disposal. His powerful performance at the eye of the hurricane he summons is marvelous and funny. By the time Norrison leaves the office to catch his train we sit amazed that he has not lost one pound from the effort he makes. Falzone is just pure magic in this part.
As Lydia, Jenny Strassberg is both silly and delightful. While she might have gone further into the farce-style of this play, her peculiar sense of calm is a distaff noise in the crowd that accumulates in the office. It is as though her pregnancy has taken hold of an otherwise silly child-woman.
Harry, soon to be Heinrich, is well-played by Moti Margolin. His lanky body moves in and out of focus as he unwillingly, then all-too-willingly adapts to the changes being thrust onto him. The actor makes his love for Lydia quite apparent and that touching quality provides the believability that this play requires in order to work so well.
Bill Tatum is fine in three different roles and so is Richard Howe in both of his. However, it is Chris Restino in his three very different parts who almost steals away the comic honors. His lightning changes of costumes, parts, and genders is hilarious. Every laugh he gets is hard-earned. Every gesture and nuance in his playing reveals a wonderful talent.
Production values are brilliant in this production. Kenneth Mooney (with Richard Howe assisting on sets) has done the triple honors of set/costumes/lighting and he has provided a gorgeous visual for this show.
The rest of the large acting company (16 in all) are equal to the leads in the quality of their characterizations and performances. As the frenzied attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear accelerates there are no slip-ups, no errors. This show is just fun from start to finish and fine way to begin a new season at Oldcastle.
One Two Three plays at Oldcastle Theatre Company through July 12. Oldcastle is located in the Bennington Center for the Arts on Gypsy Lane and Vermont Route 9, west of Bennington. For ticket and schedule information contact the box office at 802-447-1267 or visit their website at www.oldcastletheatre.org