All aboard the 20th Century Limited! Chagrin Valley Little Theatre has produced the zany comedy “Twentieth Century”, which may have the longest subtitle of authors. This version is a new adaptation of the play by Ken Ludwig, originally written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur that was based on an unpublished play by Charles Bruce Milholland. So “All Aboard!” is doubly appropriate.
The first Broadway production, directed by George Abbott, opened on December 29, 1932 at the Broadhurst Theatre. It was adapted for a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name two years later. The play has been revived on Broadway twice. The second revival, an adaptation by Ken Ludwig directed by Walter Bobbie, opened on March 25, 2004 at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre. Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche received Tony Award nominations.
With a troupe of community theatre artists, Director Barbara L. Rhoades takes on the train that is loaded with characters that are all a little off track is some way or another. And some of them generate quite a bit of laughter. The play is about Oscar Jaffe (Tim Walsh), the egomaniacal Broadway director, and Lily Garland (Grace Mannarino), the chorus girl he transformed into a leading lady. Bankrupt, with his career on a downslide, Oscar boards the Twentieth Century Limited and encounters Lily, now a temperamental Hollywood star. He’ll do anything to get her back under contract and back in his bed, but his former protégé will have nothing to do with him. All of the action takes place on board the legendary Twentieth Century train from Chicago to New York City where Oscar has 20 hours to persuade Lily to return to Broadway in his upcoming show. No Lily, no show, no career!
Most of the laughs are generated by and around Lily Garland, richly played by Grace Mannarino. Here is a woman that could beat Gloria Swanson to a cab. Diving into the diva part of the play, Mannarino has a blast overacting and serving ham at a moment’s notice. Tom Hill as Dr. Grover Lockwood, is appropriately shady and energetic, as he takes a ride on the love train with the mischievous Anita Highland (beautiful Keri Lambert). The Porter could easily be a throw away part, but in the hands of Cody Steele, he is a delightful presence. Jerry Schaber stays true to the O’ in his name but making sure his character Owen O’Malley is tipsy, and his face is mugalicious. Tim Walsh handles the lead role of Oscar Jaffe with confidence and appeal. Natalie Dolezal as Ida Webb is the eye of the hurricane, by setting up a lot of comedy around her.
This is a colorful group of characters. But what is lacking is the precision and timing of rapid fire pace. Scenes shifting from one train section to the other are often delayed, creating dead air that isn’t filled with anything visually active to hold the energy. I can’t tell if the actors don’t feel the lack of crispness needed, or the direction didn’t focus enough on the timing and full out energy needed to pull off this comedic bullet train. At intermission, an audience member in front of me stated to his partner “you kind of wonder if it gets better.” It does. Act Two brings in a force of nature in Max Jacobs, played to the hilt by Stephen Kay, and also provides a very funny death scene in which all characters enjoy a comedic self-actualization. But, the lack of sharpness still takes a toll on the overall effect.
Production values were in good shape. Set, Sound (could be louder), and Lighting Design by Edmond C. Wolff. Costumer Jackie Kruyne has a great eye for style. And Stage Manager Karen Paktinat called a clean show.
Chagrin Valley Little Theatre is a dynamic venue, surrounded by a picturesque and charming city by the falls. There is a lot of great history here. Check it out when you can.
Please use Tpography.com with any quotes. Thank you.
$14-$18 Reserved Seating/General Admission
Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
40 River Street
Cahgrin Falls, OH 44022