I might have liked to see greater differentiation between the characters dead and alive: Phyllis Kaye’s smug devil of an Elvira, sporting the fluttery fashions of her early-1930s demise, is always in turquoise when something a little paler might seem more spectral. But Elvira’s clothes contrast nicely with the sleeker, late-’30s look of Angela Brazil’s Ruth, whose perfect hair starts to unravel only when, having been inadvertently dunked in the River Styx, she reappears, in a lightning flash, on the mantel next to the Picasso knockoff. William Lane’s costumes are a show in themselves, from Madame Arcati’s bangles and plaids to the droopy pink evening gown that makes Cynthia Strickland’s retiring gorgon of a doctor’s wife look like a wilted orchid decorated with spectacles and a marcelled bob.
Fred Sullivan brings all of his amiable friskiness to Charles, who rather enjoys being an “astral bigamist,” once he gets over the brandy-glass-dropping shock. Brazil, a highly physical performer, makes Ruth a jangle of repression and fizz, whose jumping, flying tantrums are exemplars of mechanistic exasperation. And as Madame Arcati, Barbara Meek, eccentric yet grounded, keeps her teeth out of the scenery. Having played the skittish maid, Edith, in high school, I was prepared to see this minor character, who turns out to have major importance, walk off with the show, and Brown/Trinity Rep Consortium student Anna Van Valin makes the most of Edith’s alternate bolting and plodding. But it would be easier to pull off the Brink’s heist than to steal a play from this bunch.
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