Auntie dearest

By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  January 18, 2006

Stage stereotypes can be great fun, none more so than a stage Irishman with a Scots accent. The blarney-spouting author Brian O’Bannion (Will Jamison) is signed on to help Mame with her memoir. He works day and night, if you get the drift, a bottle of Scotch attached to his hand like a quill pen to a Lake Poet’s. Their meek stenographer, Agnes Gooch (Juli Parker), listens hard to Mame waxing earnest about grabbing life and gets in a family way. And so on.

As for the initial premise of the story, an eccentric aunt shining her humanizing light on a nephew tempted by the dark side of business and finance, the eventual resolution is pat and unconvincing. Time has been spent entertaining us rather than showing his change of heart, which comes across as arbitrary. His prospective fiancée, Gloria (Hillary Parker), and her equally fatuous ur-Republican parents (Tom Roberts, Peggy Becker) are too swinishly stuffy and anti-Semetic to take seriously.

As delightful as the play is as written, 2nd Story’s contributions are equally impressive. By now good acting is a given at this theater, and ticket holders expect that and get it. In this production, the costume design by Trinity Rep’s Ron Cesario provides heaps of opulent period froufrou. Even more wonderfully, director Ed Shea contrasts that vivid visual explicitness with a completely prop-free — except for drinks in hand — in-the-round staging, recruiting our imaginations to fill in backgrounds. When that technique works — as it does superbly here — we get to contribute to our own delightful enjoyment. Try that on the big screen, Hollywood.

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