by DICK KEREKES
Remember the slogan, “You deserve a break today?” Well I am changing that to “You deserve a laugh these days” and you can get dozens of them seeing Orange Park Community Theatre’s current show Sly Fox, which runs through the month of November at 2900 Moody Road in Orange Park. Call 276-2599 or reserve on line at www.opct.org.
Let me warn you, that it is bawdy and low-brow humor that will have you in stitches for two hours. It has been around since 1606 when penned by Ben Jonson under the name Volpone. In l976, Larry Gelbert of “M*A*S*H* fame, did a revised version, setting it in San Francisco in the l800s. It starred George C. Scott and had a respectable run of almost 300 performances in NYC. My, times have changed! The Theatre Guild did the original Volpone in l928, but it was reported to the New York District Attorney as being morally objectionable and closed in a few weeks. Compared to today’s TV and movies, it is tame.
The plot concerns the crafty schemes of the title character in his attempts to squeeze gold and riches out of a bunch of gullible, greedy fellow citizens of the city. He convinces some of the town’s wealthy that he is on the verge of dying and he lays back and collects their offerings as they maneuver for his favor so to be named his heir.
The webs that they weave are intriguing, but I will let you discover them when you see the play and not detail them here. Sly Fox is assisted by his servant and fellow con man, Simon, in a major role that is equal to the lead, and expertly played with gusto by North Florida newcomer, Daniel Alagna. The dupes include, Lawyer Craven (Dmity Tokarsky), whose dubious actions no doubt started all those lawyer jokes back in l606. The miserly Jethro Couch, portrayed by John Archer Lundgren who is very funny gives us a lesson on how to play old using physical mannerisms that defy description. Lundgren has cornered the market on roles on any male character over 80!! Joseph Waltz is Abner Truckle, Sly fox’s foot stomping accountant whose lust for wealth is so great he is willing to pimp his gorgeous and virtuous wife so he can be named Fox’s heir. Jessica Palombo is excellent as the naive wife. You will be able to see Ms. Palombo as Desdemona in Othello at Players by the Sea in early 2009.
All the roles this play have very distinctive over the top characteristics that the directors have encouraged to be exaggerated. Robert Holland is the Chief of Police who gets carried away when it comes investigating sex crimes. Richard Haertel as old man Couch’s son and a US Navy officer is loud and obnoxious and very funny in the process. Samantha Alagna is another newcomer to this area, and if the name sounds familiar, her husband is in the play, She is delightful as Miss Fancy, Sly’s mistress, who calls her a pleasure engineer. (Fancy name for a prostitute). Steve McMahon contributes a lot of laughs as the judge at the trial of Sly Fox for the alleged sexually assaulting Mrs. Truckle.
The role of Sly fox is played by the amazing Stan Mesnick, who at 73 years of age is razor sharp with his lines, stage movements and gestures. If he was adlibbing, he sure fooled me and the rest of the audience. He makes a great rascal what more can I can, don’t miss his performance.
Rounding out this happy cast are T. J. Howard, Kate Leshnover, Cecilia Emmert and Vick Pentecost. Ms. Pentecost is also stage manager.
Theatre veterans, the husband and wife team of Michael and Lynn Fugate have done a splendid job of casting this show and directing it to bring out all the humor in his farcical play. Faced with several long scene changes, and not wanting the audience to sit there looking at a closed curtain, they did the many scene changes like an old movie with flashing lights and keystone cop music in the back ground. As walls, beds, chairs and I don’t know what all, moved on and off the stage, actor John Lundgren stood in the middle waving his cane and ad- libbed humor to speed the process. It was great fun and the audience loved it.
This satire of greed and deception from the l600 hasn’t changed much, Turn or TV or open the newspaper and you see only the names have been changed. Just be a little open minded and I guarantee you a good time. Don’t miss Sly Fox.
by DICK KEREKES