Friday, March 20, 2009

review - Everybody Say "Cheese!"

Everybody Say "Cheese!"
written by Garry Marshall
directed by Steve Zuckerman
Falcon Theatre
through April 11
In Garry Marshall's hit Happy Days the Musical, currently on tour, Mrs. Cunningham exposes a flash of feminist independence when she yearns to find herself sans family. This was a big step for women's lib in the 50s/60s, as a woman's place had pretty much been limited to wife and mother in the home. Now in his newest comedy Everybody Say "Cheese!", Marshall has decided to create a whole play around the mother of a typical American family, who, as she grows older, is still extremely young at heart. She refuses to throw her life away by simply catering to her stick-in-the-mud husband.
Harriet announces that she will divorce Leo and in New York in 1965, the only way to divorce a spouse was to prove infidelity. But what if the spouse's problem was not his disloyalty? Would she go so far as to lie in order to gain her freedom? Ah, what a clash! The innocence of the 60s violated by the folly of a burgeoning feminist!
I was at first put off by the broad approach to the comedy, under the capable direction of Steve Zuckerman, as actors pushed and pushed for laughs. Then it became clear that dated material about sexual dysfunction, divorce and hookers will play funny to a contemporary audience (particularly those that did not live through the 60s) only if they see it in a farcical vein. If you can accept how very ludicrous a situation is, all is well with the world, at least in the theatrical world of comedy.
And this cast is a comedic marvel. Husky-voiced and adorable DeeDee Rescher is outstanding as Harriet. Her comic timing is only surpassed by her fine sense of drama, as when tender feelings about her upcoming birthday come spilling out. Joe Regalbuto is hilarious as Leo; his second act drunken scene is his finest hour. Roberta Valderrama steals the show as the hooker Lee Lynn, who will allow any epithet but hore. John Capodice shines as Charlie, the neighbor you just can't live without. Joel Johnstone makes his lawyer Artie memorably pushy, and Heather Corwin and Cyrus Alexander complete the terrific ensemble as daughter Gail and her football player hubbie.
Like an early Neil Simon comedy, mixing reality with schmaltz, Everybody Say "Cheese!" is a fun evening of theatre. Harriet's strength of character will stay with you, making you recall you own delightfully manipulative mom. Rescher's aura sure worked its magic on me.
4 out of 5 stars


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