Corrections or additions?
This review by Jack Florek was prepared for the
April 18, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Review: `Tons of Money’
Miss Benita Mullet: "The early bird catches the
worm, my dear." Louise Allington: "If there’s only one worm,
why should I spoil the market?"
Alan Ayckbourne’s 1980s adaptation of the 1920s farce, "Tons of
Money," has a bit less slapstick humor and physical comedy than
is generally found in your standard run-of-the-mill farce. But what
it lacks in door-slamming is more than made up for in witty and
dialogue. And Off-Broadstreet Theater has brought together a walloping
good cast that knows how to deliver a good line or a crooked sneer.
"Tons of Money," the Hopewell dessert theater’s second helping
of the season, runs Friday and Saturday evenings, with matinees on
Sundays, though Saturday, May 19.
The story is sweetly improbable. Aubrey Henry Maitland Allington (Gary
VanLieu) and his wife, Louise (Suzanne Houston), have been living
high on the hog for some time. Unfortunately, their high standard
of living has all been on credit, and the creditors are becoming
impatient. But when Aubrey suddenly gets word that he has inherited
$470,000, all their troubles seem solved. Unfortunately the Allingtons
are so deep in debt that if they were pay their creditors there be
would nothing left for them to splurge with. So they decide to come
up with a plan to get the credit hounds off their back and still keep
To their delight, they discover a clause in the will that states that
if Aubrey were to pass from this mortal coil, his long missing cousin,
George Maitland, would inherit the money. George has been presumed
dead for many years, and this is the heart of the Allingtons’ scheme.
Aubrey decides to fake his own death, with the help of his wife
and then come back under the guise of Cousin George to collect the
But of course, as in any farce, nothing goes the way it is planned,
and there is a host of charmingly improbable misunderstandings that
fuel the play and help keep the comic sparks flying.
Producing a farce is a high-risk venture because it needs to run as
smoothly as a race car in order to keep from falling flat. This
a highly skilled cast, which is what this production has. But
is especially fortunate in that while each actor is very funny, they
are also individually unique, and all complement one another’s style,
making a tasty comic soup.
Gary VanLieu is grandly goofy as Aubrey. He seems to have a kind of
rubber-face that bounces from little boy innocence to raw greed to
blown-up confusion at the flick of a wick. Suzanne Houston as Louise
Allington is quick to put on a pout or curl her face into a sneer
that can hit her target from across a crowded stage. Together they
make a pleasing comic pair, with the chemistry to appear believable
as a couple (no small feat) with a knack for hitting their comic
just at the right moment.
Rob Pherson as the Allingtons’ butler is equally
and is very funny in a quite different way. His brand of comedy is
to allow things to just happen around him, in an understated way,
and let his dead-pan looks take care of the rest. This gives the
the opportunity to see the play in a slightly different light,
their response off of his. Catherine Rowe as the Allingtons’ maid
plays nicely off of Pherson’s understated comic gifts, flitting about
him like a butterfly.
Michael Lawrence as the solicitor has a frantic manner about him that
puts him in a different comic ballpark. He seems calm on the outside
but inside there lurks a hepped-up Daffy Duck waiting to escape.
Adding a gentle sexiness to the show is Candace Gallagher as Louise’s
slightly bawdy friend Jean. June Connerton is also a comic plus as
the stuck-in-her-own-head Miss Benita Mullett. Scott Hubscher, as
Giles the gardener, has a strong presence that grabs attention as
soon as he walks out on stage. Together, the ensemble creates a warmth
that adds much to the production.
Robert Thick as director does an excellent job both reining in and
focusing this high-potency comic hodgepodge. Although he allows every
character their moment in the spotlight, no one overstays their
or strays off the straight and narrow path required to create an
comedy. Another subtle plus is that Thick has not allowed any of the
characters to become caricatures by stepping into flat-out zaniness,
nor has he permitted them more than a grain of sarcasm. This gives
the audience the chance to enter the play on their own terms, while
also giving the show a lot of heart
British director Peter Hall once said that to play Ayckbourne well,
"you have to dig deep, be serious, and then get laughed at."
That is exactly what Thick and his cast have accomplished.
— Jack Florek
Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, 609-466-2766. $20.50 & $22. Fridays
Sundays, until May 19.
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