Continuing its tradition of celebrating the holiday season in “the non-traditional way anticipated by Off-Broadstreet Theater patrons,” the theater is this year is presenting a wacky comedy, Simon Williams’s “Nobody’s Perfect.” Known as “Kiss My Aunt” when it first opened (in England) 10 years ago, “Nobody’s Perfect” has a cast of four, three of whom represent three generations of a dysfunctional family. Leonard, the father, is a statistician, working in what most people think of as a boring profession. He lives with Dee Dee, his high-school-aged daughter who is into all sorts of behavior that he isn’t aware of and wouldn’t approve of if he were, and Gus, his somewhat senile but still raunchy father, who has been thrown out of his senior citizen housing for “inappropriate behavior.”
Leonard is secretly writing a pornographic novel, which he enters in a contest sponsored by a publishing house that specializes in the genre. The house is run by women for women, so that to enter the contest Leonard has to pretend he is a woman. The fourth character in the play is Harriet, an editor at this publishing house, and the person in charge of the contest.
As is often the case at OBT, the set is striking. In “Nobody’s Perfect” it’s as important to the development of the plot as the characters are. More than half the stage is taken up by the apartment building in which Leonard and his family live. We can see both the inside and the outside of the building, from the stoop leading to the outside door with its row of buzzers and the telephone used to reach those inside the building to the interior, with the living room and the hallway leading to the kitchen and bedroom. Against the wall in the living room is a large desk where Leonard works on his novel, reading out loud what he has just written. Stage left is Harriet’s office.
Also crucial to the play are the telephones. In addition to the telephone on the outside of the building, there is one on Leonard’s desk and one on Harriet’s. And, of course, there are plenty of cell phones. All this means that very complicated interactions can take place without the characters being aware of what the audience has already figured out. And when you consider that Leonard must pretend he is a woman if he is to enter the contest, you get some idea of just how complicated these interactions can be.
This production has been put together with absolute precision. The set is not just striking in appearance, but functional as well, constructed so that no matter how great the chaos, the audience can follow what is going on. And the cast does a first-rate job of dealing with the demands of slapstick, double takes, and the like, without ever sacrificing the words to get the physical timing right. Regular patrons of Off-Broadstreet have come to expect a high level from Bob Thick, who has both directed and designed the show, but he seems to have outdone himself this time.
All the parts but Dee Dee are played by veterans of Off-Broadstreet. And all the parts are played by actors for whom acting is not, at least at the moment, their primary job. Patrick Andrae, seen most recently at the theater in “The Goodbye Girl” last spring, plays Leonard. When he is not on stage, Andrae is a research chemist who works in the neuroscience department at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals with some promising developments in the fight against Alzheimers. Curtis Kaine, seen last year at Off- Broadstreet as the police inspector in “Frankenstein,” plays Gus, the father, and does an amusing, and tasteful, job of forgetting where his keys are, dancing vigorously despite his stage age, and cozying up to any available female. Kaine works at the Ten Acres Foundation, not an organization known for encouraging such behavior.
Christy McCall, seen summer before last in “Out of Order,” where she played the role of Pamela, serves during the week as director of the Bold and Gold Council Rock High School South Marching Band in Holland, Pennsylvania. With the football season in swing, this must be a particularly busy time for her, but one wouldn’t have thought she had another concern on her mind than being a believable Harriet. Dee Dee is convincingly played by Katie Munley, the one newcomer to Off- Broadstreet, who is currently a student at Raritan Valley Community College and has also studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York City.
The playwright, Simon Williams, has had a career as an actor as well as a playwright, appearing on stage and in television and known to many Masterpiece Theater aficianados for his part as James Bellamy in the TV series “Upstairs, Downstairs.” He has written for TV as well as the stage, has directed for both, and has written two best-selling novels. Williams worked with Michael Sloan to adapt “Nobody’s Perfect” for American audiences. “Nobody’s Perfect” has a sequel, “Nobody’s Fool.” If it’s anywhere near as amusing as “Nobody’s Perfect,” let’s hope the Thicks decide to put it on soon.
Nobody’s Perfect, through December 15, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Comedy about the winner of a romantic fiction contest, written by Simon Williams, the British actor who played James Bellamy in the Masterpiece Theater series “Upstairs, Downstairs.” $25.25. 609-466-2766.