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REVIEW: Whos Under Where is a farce that causes tears to flow, sides to ache

by David Meyer

DRAYTON - Why was it that tears were catching the rim of our glasses while we were watching what is billed as a comedy?

And why were there more shrieks at Who’s Under Where than at a horror movie?

The answer is the tears were from genuine laughter that had our sides aching, too. And those shrieks were merely a prelude to absolute howls of laughter that nearly shook the theatre. The final production of the Drayton Festival Theatre is an absolute hoot - and we recommend it not be missed.

The Canadian farce opens with one of the most perfectly done scenes we have seen in over a decade of theatre going. Susie Burnett, as Jane Pritchard, and Catherine McNally, as her business partner Sybil Brunt, were so perfect it was easy to believe they were two nervous business operators on the verge of bankruptcy - but planning a coup that would not only get them out from under, but also make them rich.

Their business is underwear or, as they put it, lingerie - for women and men.

The farce is directed by  Marcia Kash, who is co-author of the play with Doug Hughes. There has been a noticeable involvement in theatre lately by authors who take the reins by directing or even acting, and that is a move to be applauded. Kash certainly knew what she wanted, and she certainly helped to craft a hit with this show.

The designing women are waiting in a posh hotel room filled with undergarments, hoping to impress Bruno Fruferelli, an Italian designer who is a giant the fashion world. A deal with him gets the women set for a huge career - and lots of bucks.

The problem is their husbands. Nigel Hamer is Paul Pritchard and Brad Rudy is George Brunt. They have become suspicious of their wives’ actions, particularly since they have seen their bank accounts suddenly and   drained, and the women have been coming home late and hanging up the phone when they enter the room. They follow their wives to the hotel to catch them red handed in an affair and all heck breaks lose.

Kash uses a marvelous set by Allan Wilbee and costumes by Angela VanderVeen to bring the play to its wackiest potential. Not a trick is missed. Some of the best scenes are silent ones, with the two husbands fighting and gawking from a balcony while the women are busy solving their problems of delayed models, expensive champagne and what to do when their female model gets knocked out of action.

The husbands get accused of burglary for stealing the lingerie, the wives deny they know them, a hot-to-trot security guard played by Ian Deakin takes a shine to Paul Pritchard (disguised in women’s lingerie) and a male model named Sebastian (Jason Adam Clarke) hilariously demonstrates how a woman designer can take some beautiful revenge on Hugh Heffner.

When Robin Ward arrives as designer Bruno Fruferelli, the laughs only increase. His suave, man-of-the-world demeanor was perfect for the role, and his letch for Paul Pritchard (still in the lingerie) was hilarious, too.

The entire evening is a complete romp. Hamer is particularly good when forced to act as a mannikin. His attempts to keep a grin off his face recall the best comic moments of Red Skelton, who also had trouble concealing his laughter at the goings-on around him.

Hamer also has some fabulously funny accents when forced to disguise his voice. He and Rudy, as the reluctant spying husbands, play off each other brilliantly.

And then there is the underwear .. er lingerie. They look like nothing in our dresser, and are made of materials and colours that are unlikely to ever be found in nature. It might seem odd, but the props of the production get nearly as much laughs as the comic lines. Both are deserving, too.

It was a close contest, but by our count, women had the most howls and shrieks from the show, but the men in the audience were also doubled over most of the night as the one-liners flew and the underwear got tossed.

It was a perfect comic evening of entertainment.

Who’s Under Where runs until Sept. 24. To order tickets, call the theatre box office at 519-638-5555 or toll free at 1-855-372-9866.


September 16, 2011


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