“Mrs. Mannerly,” Two Character Delight at Theatre 40
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s quasi autobiographical comedy based on two characters directed by Robert Mackenzie at Theatre 40 is a sheer delight! There is much humor, many chuckles, and a bit of sentiment. The play was very entertaining. That said, Act One was a bit slow, but the pace picked up in Act Two. Though the writing was flawed, the comedy was entertaining.
The play is set in Steubenville, Ohio in 1967. And the set, in the rumpus room on the second floor of the local YMCA was sparse but appropriate for the time and place. The stop action direction in which one actor froze while the other spoke was very effective. That direction saved the distraction of entrances and exits.
Nan Tepper shone as Mrs. Helen Anderson Kirk aka “Mrs. Mannerly”. This was perfect casting. Her Mrs. Mannerly, the town matriarch who instills breeding to those not born into it was spot on. Tepper had some hesitation in her lines, but it worked for her character as an aging “mannered” woman. Tepper’s demeanor, bearing and voice so well established the character.
In Steubenville, “anyone who wanted to be anybody was sent to Mrs. Mannerly.” Richard Horvitz, a superb voice-over actor, played the ten year old Master Jeffrey. He also played multiple parts and swiftly changed from one character to another as he became Charles, or “Chuckie, the brown nosed pussy.” Yes, the dialogue was interestingly peppered with spicy words. Master Ralph Katz, the snot nosed kid who wiped his nose with his hand, was quite different from Master Jeffrey and Charles. Another student in the class was Ms. Kim Mc Quinn. Horvitz also played Ms. Jamie Hauser, “Hi, I hate you.” He excelled as Patsy Lopresta, the Mafioso 19 year old who is going to be a “ringer” in the dance competition. “I’m sweatin like a hunk of mortadella.”
He also played Mr. Krosky, from the Thespian Society, who helped Master Jeffrey find out the secret about Mrs. Mannerly and her trip to Chicago that she denied taking. She coaches her students to never lie, and this lie boggles Master Jeffrey. All we are told is that Helen went to Chicago and had been cast in a play. She left before opening night. And she lied about ever being there? Why? Master Jeffrey wanted to know and so did we. Though we as the audience were never given clues to piece the mystery together and this bothered me as to plot line. This element was introduced but not fully explored. There was too much “mystery to the mystery.” The writing was flawed. Much of it seemed as it were written indeed, by a ten year old.
Young Master Jeffrey wanted to “be better than anyone else.” He had always been told he had good manners and, so he enrolled and was accepted in Mrs. Mannerly’s course in etiquette. No one has ever gotten 100 percent, and Master Jeffrey is determined to do so. Besides if he takes Helen’s class he doesn’t have to play in the hateful Little League. At the end of the course, Helen would put on a show at the Daughters of the American Revolution, aka :the old biddies” and one of her students would win the competition.
One by one her students drop out and Master Jeffrey is left alone to compete. Will he get to compete? Will he discover Helens’ secret? There is much fast action, though repetitive, as Horvitz swiftly bounces from one character to another.
There were some fun visuals as Kim was blindfolded and expected to arrange a perfect place setting while timed though the director only showed us the back of the character which did not make sense. There was very good physical comedy in the scene in which Horvitz played both Jeffrey and Patsy as they danced. That was no easy feat, but Horvitz pulled it off well.
As the play unfolded in Act Two, Master Jeffrey and Helen become close and come to care for one another. I would hav eliked to have seen more depth in this scene as it was a pivotal one. I loved the scene in the Steubenville Bar as Master Jeffrey plyed Helen with liquor to get her to tell about Chicago. A curious relationship develops and is threatened only by Jeffrey’s need to uncover the mystery even if it destroys Helen’s reputation. Will Jeffery reveal the contents of the mysterious envelope Mr. Krosky handed to Jeffrey, as he was about to perform in front of the “old biddies? Hmmm? Maybe Jeffrey will have a change of heart? Maybe as Mrs. Mannerly said, “Mystery will be more important than knowledge.”
An endearing relationship developed that threatened to be destroyed by competitive spirit and Jeffrey’s need to win. But, perhaps some secrets are best left untold. You have to see the play to decide.
“Mrs. Mannerly” runs through December 15t h at Theatre 40 which is at BHHS at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Free parking is available in the parking structure. For tickets and show times, call 310-364-0535. Mrs. Mannerly runs in repertoire with “The Last Romance.”
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, a recent :Greenlight Financial”, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,”etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills, Community Services. To register, call 310-285-6850-course # 18014. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. The next class starts January 10th. For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Beverly Hills Community Services at 310-285-6850. Classes fill so register in December. The class in for 8 weeks @ $118 from 6:45-9:15 PM ($5 materials fee payable to instructor first night).