Michael Tarringer, Julia Liebhart in a scene from CALIFORNIA SUITE at Barley Sheaf Players. (Photo credit: Andrea Grinwis)

CALIFORNIA SUITE at Barley Sheaf: Quadruple the Comedy

Four short plays make up Neil Simons CALIFORNIA SUITE, which we were treated to at The Barley Sheaf Players on Friday evening. Groups of talented actors play various couples passing through a Beverly Hills Hotel suite. Each scene brought different styles and creativity of the characters involved. The play is a moment in time that captures ongoing relationships that develop and mature through some kind of crisis or turning point, with histories neatly packed in.

Opening: The maid (TiaChanel Allen) serves as entertainment between scene changes. Recently seeing her in RENT, her performance again did not disappoint. From her cleverly choreographed feather dusting, to fluffing up a pillow, to her very funny “ick” gestures as she enters the guest restroom, a gold star goes to her performance. Kudos!

Act I Scene 1: “Visitor from New York” (directed by Lindsay Franklin) A very sophisticated and professional divorced couple argue over which parent should keep their 17-year-old daughter. The verbal sparring between Hannah (Julia Liebhardt) and Billy (Michael Tarringer) is both painful and hilarious—everything’s fair game for Hannah’s twisted jests. She pulls in opposite ends of the spectrum to push the buttons of her city-turned-coastal husband—“a 45-year-old Billy”. Carrying her character with complete finesse, we see the vulnerable side of Hannah when she reveals her fears to be more than the geographical separation from her trying teen. Liebhardt switches moods without missing a beat, and Tarringer is at his best here also as he listens intently as she expresses her fear of losing her daughter. The couple knows each other on an intimate level even years after the divorce.

(Top) Natalie Gaspari, (Bottom) Bryan McVeigh. (Photo credit: Andrea Grinwis)

(Top) Natalie Gaspari, (Bottom) Bryan McVeigh. (Photo credit: Andrea Grinwis)

Scene 2: “Visitors From Philadelphia” (directed by Christine Robinson) Three is certainly a crowd when Marvin Michaels (Byran McVeigh) wakes up “the morning after” to find out that he has overslept, a passed-out call girl, Bunny (Elizabeth Wheeler), is in his bed, and his wife Millie Michaels (Natalie Gaspari) is on her way up. After much sweat and almost tears, Marvin decides to let the “proverbial cat” out of the bag before Millie discovers it herself that there is someone else in that bed that she so desires to nap in. Comical and an “uh-oh” moment at the same time, you could feel the angst between McVeigh and Gaspari. McVeigh did a wonderful job at acting out the nervous cheating husband and Gaspari is terrific at portraying a woman of a thousand faces as the agitated yet forgiving wife.

ACT II Scenes 1 and 2: “Visitors From London” (directed by Allison Greet), takes cultural jabs this time at the whole of American culture by way of Hollywood. Oscar-nominated actress Diana (Fran Kane) from British descent drives her husband, Sidney (Ron Blasdell), crazy with her insecurities just before the awards ceremonies. Kane is charming, displaying her self-consciousness in off-handed swipes: she asks her husband to cover the “hump” on her chiffon dress when she receives her award; “I look like Richard the III.” Both Kane and Blasdell were a delight to watch with their dry sense of humor and delightful wit. They were perfectly matched and reminded Laura of her days watching PBS British comedy with her father way back when.

Bonnie Schuman, Deb Topka, Jan Brofka-Berends, Keith Chamberlain. (Photo credit: Andrea Grinwis)

Bonnie Schuman, Deb Topka, Jan Brofka-Berends, Keith Chamberlain. (Photo credit: Andrea Grinwis)

Scene 3: “Visitors From Chicago,” two couples at the end of their vacation together, go at each other’s throats after a game of mixed doubles turns into mixed trouble. After a series of bangings and bruisings on the tennis court, Mort Hollender (Jan Brofka-Berends), Beth Hollender (Bonnie Schuman), Gert Franklyn (Deb Topka), and Stu Franklyn (Keith Chamberlain), who are hobbling, hopping or tottering around the two-room suite create a very funny slapstick.

Although preferring musicals to plays, we must say that this play is an appropriate choice for fast-moving attention-getting entertainment and we were glad we saw CALIFORNIA SUITE. The mood changes are quick for some of the characters, Liebhardt’s and Kane’s in particular, and the cast had no trouble keeping up. Very entertaining.

CALIFORNIA SUITE
by Neil Simon
September 5 – 20, 2014
Barley Sheaf Players
810 N. Whitford Road
Lionville, PA 19353
610-363-7075
www.barleysheaf.org

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Laura and Keith Clattenburg

Laura and Keith Clattenburg

Keith S. Clattenburg, adopted into a loving family at birth, started studying music/piano at the age of five. His parents, accomplished musicians, insisted on perfection and instilled those characteristics in Keith. He is a graduate of Abington High School where he won many awards for his talent on the piano and he was the PIAA State Choir accompanist in 1975 and 1976. He continued with piano lessons until 1975 when he switched to organ. Following graduation, Keith went into the United State Marine Corps and as a recruit he was in charge of the Sunday morning religious services on Parris Island. Surrounded by music growing up, Keith took a liking to the theater from a very young age, seeing everything possible from opera, plays and of course musicals. THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the Valley Forge Music Fair in King of Prussia, along with many other musicals in Philadelphia and New York piqued his interest. Keith got involved with groups in the area and started playing the piano, then blossomed to becoming resident Musical Director of King of Prussia Players. Laura T. Clattenburg has performed, stage managed, and produced for Pages to Pirouettes and the King of Prussia Players since 2007. She is an alumna of the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts as a vocal major, was vocally trained at Settlement Music School in Germantown, and moved onto a career as a graphic artist. She is a former board member for the King of Prussia Players, where she is currently the Graphic Designer for all marketing materials and programs. Keith and Laura recently started a new venture: B Sharp Productions, a commercial theater company.

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