Mirron Productions and Paul Lucas Productions
When Aunt Daphne Went Nude
A Dark Comedy by Miriam Jensen Hendrix
Featuring: Roy Bacon, Scott Ferrara, Tarah Flanagan,
Patricia Hodges, JC Hoyt, Lucille Patton,
Josh Shirley, Jane Titus
311 West 43rd Street, 5th Floor
Director: Keith Oncale
Set & Costume Design: Gregory Tippit
Lighting Design: Douglas Filomena
Sound Design: Howard Harrison
Stage Manager: Liz Reddick
Press: Kevin McAnarney
Company Manager: Vince Iaropoli
Assistant Director: Abena Koomson
Dialect Coach: Susanna Baddiel
Casting: Cindi Rush Casting
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 23, Matinee
Miriam Jensen Hendrix has dished up, with very British humor, a scenario at an estate in England, on the verge of demise, about financial greed and financial pride, about the power of love and the power of pretense, about American values and British opinions, about the Pre-World War II Depression, and about the notion of a pure, Aryan existence. Other sub-texts involve the devious, yet hysterical attempts by a calculating mother to thwart fate by unearthing the worst that a family has to offer, in an attempt to “un-impress” her son’s American fiancée and her protective aunt.
Among the worst that a family has to offer is Aunt Daphne, who dreams of a perfect existence at a nudist retreat, in an original conception of total “health spa”. At that health spa, there would also be teachings of Adolf Hitler, and that’s where the play begins to lose its humor. The first act, with calculated invitations for a “haunted” weekend, with family drunkenness, with the most charming and in-character butler that I’ve ever seen, with threats of disrobing, and even with a cameo appearance of the American aunt and her financial/marital hold on her 21 year-old niece (until she turns 25), was steadily upbeat and contagiously engaging.
The second act, as well, had all the elements of black humor, but the infusion of Nazi philosophy and the recitation of Aryan dreams became depressing and put a damper on the fiery first act’s kindling of interest. Jane Titus, as Lady Daphne Bellamy, exuded poise, presence, upbringing, and style, in spite of her dysfunctional dreams and unfortunate political add-ons. JC Hoyt, as Jipsome, the elegant butler, who has his own rebellious surprise in store for his masters, is outstanding and delicious in his body manner and facial expressions.
Patricia Hodges, as Lady Delia Walmesley, the conniving and clawing mother, holding out for a “wealthy’ match for her son, Reginald, is every bit the British Lady, who keeps up appearances with butler, scotch, and silver. Lucille Patton, as the tough-veneered Aunt Millicent Rowbottom (of lucrative Rowbottom Beer), is every bit the Vermont Yankee in pulled-back hairdo and long, stylish skirt. Tarah Flanagan, as Emily Rowbottom, the perky, pleasant New England fiancée, has a petite persona, but convincing characterization, and, in old-fashioned mind-set, I rooted for her success in overcoming her environment.
Scott Ferrara, as Reginald Walmesley, the oppressed fiancé, was handsome and stately, but one of the weaker characters, along with Roy Bacon, as Sir Cedric Walmesley, who played his alcoholic father. Apparently Sir Cedric had fallen on hard times, due to the Depression, and alcohol kept him coping. However, I would have liked to see more charisma from both passive actors/characters to prop up the male contingent, so ably strengthened by Jipsome, as butler extraordinaire. However, Josh Shirley, as Willard “Buck” Weaver, the Texan cousin, full of bravado, swagger, and a bit of conniving, on his own, added strong support, with wily Western costumes and a tantalizing Texan drawl. When Aunt Daphne Went Nude is worth the visit for its lush British manor interiors, its effective lighting (moving clouds through a luminous window), its charming period costumes, and its biting satire and family foibles.
On your way to or from this West 43rd Street, NYC production, be sure to stop by a lovely Italian restaurant, called Amarone, at 686 Ninth Avenue, between 47th and 48th Streets, 212. 245.6060. Tell Tony, the Proprietor, that you read about Amarone on RobertaOnTheArts.com. At Amarone, you will find the freshest of pastas, the most unusual salads, sumptuous fish entrees, and daring desserts. Amarone, named for regional wines, is a little corner of Italy.