Classic struggles of old versus young and passion versus stability are delightfully and hilariously highlighted by "Weekend Comedy" opening at Alhambra Theatre & Dining. Set in a two-room upstate New York vacation cabin on Memorial Day weekend, the show is a
two-act romp with enough gut-busters to keep the audience laughing.
Headliner Cindy Williams of "Laverne & Shirley" fame perfectly embodies the role of Peggy, a likable, lusty middle-aged wife looking to add romance to her marriage during a weekend trip to a secluded cabin. Peggy's amusing quest for passion is touched with a layer of sadness in her relationship with her clueless husband, Frank, who is deftly played by another veteran performer, Tom McElroy.
As the utterly unromantic but lovable Frank, McElroy shines, delivering explosive one-liners that often leave the audience gasping for air — and at least once has them blushing to the roots — as he cavorts and mutters and fends off Peggy's attempts to create an air of intimacy. Williams and McElroy, who recently played these roles together in Kansas City, could not be better cast.
Just as things are heating up between Peggy and Frank, a younger couple flounces in, claiming to have rented the same cabin. Played by Alhambra newcomer Kelsey Clifford and Dominic Windsor, Jill and Tony have good looks, money and passion to spare, but their relationship is not as solid as it initially appears. Windsor, as Tony, perfectly portrays the quintessential spoiled little rich kid all grown up, and the audience delights in rolling their eyes at his inflated ego and delusions of grandeur. Windsor, who has a mostly forgivable tendency to shout, practically oozes arrogance. However - though clearly no fault of Windsor's - writers Jeanne and Sam Bobrick's efforts to redeem Tony result in a slightly less-believable character.
As Jill, Clifford is a sweet and charming counterpoint to the cavalier Tony. Early in the first act, Clifford's timing occasionally missed by a fraction of a second and there were a few moments that her performance was a bit shaky. But by the second act, she was right on cue and seamlessly in character. There is little doubt that Clifford, who's making her Alhambra debut with this performance, will continue to grow into the role and hone her stage presence.
Much of the weekend's boldest action in "Weekend Comedy" is narrated by Williams and takes place in the audience's imagination, but enough happens on stage to keep the show from being reduced to a series of monologues and quips. Under the direction of producer and director Tod Booth, all four actors — but particularly Williams and McElroy — are endearing and wry and bring greater depth to their characters than the script alone seems to have provided. The set design also merits mention, for it's difficult to imagine Dave Dionne doing a better job of staging the scenes.
The laughs grow more raucous and bold as the show works toward to an admittedly predictable end. The old-versus-young conflict between Frank and Tony grows ever more outrageous and childish as Frank quite literally reaches his bottom and finally turns a corner in his development as a character. In the subsequent scenes, Williams also gives her best and hits a few home runs of her own.
Overall, the show doesn't suffer from its lack of surprising plot twists or unexpected developments. It's light-hearted and funny with occasional glimpses at more meaningful truths. By the end, both couples win over the audience with laughter and accessibility. It's hard to pick a clear favorite, though Frank might be ours, for undergoing the greatest transformation and delivering the best jokes.
Over the past four years, new owners have recreated Alhambra Theatre & Dining into a vibrant performance space. With nightly menu changes and full service from an ever-circling fleet of staff, long gone are the days of the sneeze-guard buffet that formerly characterized the nation's longest-running professional dinner theater. Arrive early and mingle in the lounge, then linger over a dinner prepared by Chef DeJuan Roy, formerly of 95 Cordova
in St. Augustine.