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May 17, 2011 > Theatre Review: Comedy Classic Brings Cheer

Theatre Review: Comedy Classic Brings Cheer

By Vidya Pradhan

A theatrical family, unexpected bourgeois guests, and a weekend at a creaky manor in the English countryside - ingredients for a classic Noel Coward farce. Broadway West brings us a revival of Hay Fever, a comedy of manners from the talented composer, actor, and director.

The Blisses are an eccentric, artistic family living in the suburbs of London after the retirement of Judith Bliss, a stage diva with dreams of making a comeback. One memorable weekend each member of this oddball family invites a guest to stay over without the knowledge of the others, leading to a merry game of revolving doors and rotating relationships.

In 1921, Coward befriended the playwright Hartley Manners and his wife, the eccentric actress Laurette Taylor. Their theatrical lifestyle inspired him to write Hay Fever, which is said to have been completed in just three days.

The talented ensemble of Broadway West plays Hay Fever as high farce, adopting plummy British accents and taking every opportunity to ham it up. Without a well-defined plot or opportunities for drama, the play depends on the ability of the cast to deliver the witty lines well, and they do so with flair and panache.

Shareen Merriam plays Judith Bliss with arch coquetry; she has the advantage of the best lines. Lucy Littlewood, as Judith Bliss' temperamental daughter Sorel, brings shades of Margot from Broadway West's earlier prodiuction Dial M for Murder; her marvelous ability to throw her voice feels more suited to larger venues. Special mention must be made of Celestial Tranquility, who plays Jackie Coryton, one of the bemused guests; her restrained performance provides the perfect foil to the over-the-top performances of the Blisses.

Hay Fever is co-directed by Mary Galde and Todd Wright; the latter doubles up as a cast member and slips comfortably into the role of Richard Greathem, the mild-mannered diplomat who finds himself bewildered and overwhelmed by the madcap antics of his hosts.

The opening night audience found much to enjoy in the fluffy period piece; laughter often drowned out the lines, forcing the actors to improvise.

The play is a welcome addition to Broadway West's diverse offerings in its 15th year. The little theater that could continues to entertain its devoted patrons, and has begun attracting the notice of younger theater lovers happy to discover Fremont's hidden gem.

May 13 - June 11
Thursday, Friday and Saturday
8 p.m.
Broadway West Theatre
4000 Bay St., Fremont
(510) 683-9218

Ticket Prices:
$23 Adults
$18 Seniors/Students/TBA (no Senior/Student discount on Opening Night and Sundays)
$15 Thursdays

Doors and box office open at 7:30 pm.

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