'We're British' Disproved By Accents

Production Provides Enjoyment, But A Dialect Coach Is Needed

March 06, 1991|By Tim Weinfeld | Tim Weinfeld,Contributing theater critic

WESTMINSTER — County audiences are finally getting the opportunity to experience one of community theater's most popular and regularly produced plays, "No Sex Please, We're British."

Let's get the obvious out of the way right from the start. If you decide to produce a play which proclaims "We're British," you have an obligation to the author, the text and the audience to use at least some semblance of a British accent. This production, presented by The Carroll Players at Dinner Theatre atFrock's Sunnybrook Farm restaurant, does not. What it does offer arevarious attempts at accents.

Certainly the major thrust of community theater is social and recreational, and the Players have consistently served that purpose well. Since the troupe does charge admission, it might consider using some of the proceeds for a dialect coach when one is called for.

"No Sex Please" centers on newlyweds Peter and Francis Hunter who, instead of receiving an expected delivery of Scandinavian crystal, are the recipients of some pornographic photographs. The plot concerns the oft-thwarted and aborted attempts to dump these materials and those that follow -- a tide of "dirty" materials including, eventually, two ladies of the night.

This is essentially a one-idea play, and its powers rest on the ability of the newlyweds to react and respond convincingly to the various materials and other characters.

Pat Flahertyand Michele Everett, under the direction of Mary Lou Grout, realize about half of the play's comedic and farcical potential.

While these actors are quite successful in playing believable newlyweds and keeping the momentum of the play moving forward, they do not provide enough variety of response nor the building intensity of responses on which this sort of play depends. Much of this deficiency is the resultof directorial decisions that retard rather than support the play's inherent, if limited, humor.

The other characters to whom the couple must react are played as laughable caricatures, precluding any threat to the couple, who are attempting to unload the material without being considered pornographers.

For example, the superintendent ofpolice is played as a Keystone Kop, a fumbling, bumbling and unshaven clown, leaving the principles with little opportunity to fear him and the threat he represents.

A delivery man, while bringing in boxes of pornographic books, nudges the lady of the house indicating he is her buddy, rather than a cause of much difficulty. This same problem exists with the other intruders.

Peter's boss at his bank and the bank examiner they fear pose no real threat to the couple. And thelatter's role in the play is further limited by his cuteness. When he is eventually attacked by the prostitutes, the humor dependent on his uptightness fails.

Kathleen Day, as Peter's mother, and Paul Zimmerman as the incompetent friend who bears the brunt of the responsibility for the plot complications, do very well in presenting interesting and consistent characters. They both embody the spirit of the piece and, with the exception of Zimmerman's character's breakdown, arebelievable.

The set, while attractive, looks too much like Carroll Players' sets of the past. The most laudatory accomplishment is designer Dean Camlin's success in providing six -- yes, six -- egress opportunities on the postage stamp-sized stage.

A small audience seemed to enjoy the play despite the cast's usual opening-night steppingon the lines of others because of very incomplete listening. This tended too often to slow the pace of a piece which director Grout otherwise paced well and wisely.

With time and a larger audience, this production may be more fun than it was on opening night.

The Carroll Players' performance of "No Sex Please, We're British" runs Thursday through Saturday and March 14, 15 and 16 at Dinner Theatre at Frock's Sunnybrook Farm restaurant in Westminster.

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