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Father Knows Best In One Slight Hitch

By Gary Wien


(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ -- OCTOBER 5, 2012) -- It's rare to say that a play has a killer soundtrack, but a great 80s playlist is one of the many joys of Lewis Black's play and helps set the tone for "One Slight Hitch". The play, which opened on October 2nd and runs until October 28, is the season opener for George Street Playhouse.

Set in 1981, the play takes place on the day Courtney (the eldest sister of three) is set to marry Harper. The family has largely questioned what she sees in Harper, but her mother (Delia) is determined to give her the wonderful wedding day she never had. In the hours before the wedding is set to begin, Courtney's ex-boyfriend Ryan makes an unannounced visit, a missing florist is found in jail, valiums are taken, tons of booze is inhaled, and shrimp boats are put outside in the summer heat long before they were supposed to.

The play stars Mark Linn-Baker as the father; Lizbeth Mackay as Delia, the mother; Lauren Ashley Carter as PB; Christopher Tocco as Ryan; Rosie Benton as Courtney; Clea Alsip as Melanie; and Scott Drummond as Harper. It is directed by Joe Grifasi.

The first half of the play is like Neil Simon on speed with a healthy dose of Lewis Black's "Back In Black" monologues from The Daily Show. Fans of that show or of Lewis' comedy, will not be disappointed in this insanely hilarious 80's fairy tale.

The play begins with a look at PB, the youngest daughter. She's looking back as an adult at how the wedding day unveiled when she was just 16. When PB reveals in the opening that she's a Republican, I couldn't help but be reminded of Alex P. Keaton on the 80s hit TV show, "Family Ties". For whatever reason, the simple musical interludes on her Walkman and the mention of being a Republican did an outstanding job of setting the time period for me.

"One Slight Hitch" has one of the best openings I've seen in a while. You know it's going to be a good play when the simple introduction of the parents brings down the house with roaring laughter. Within two or three minutes, the idea that this is a Republican household becomes even more clear.

"The photographers are lesbians," said Delia.

"Lesbians? I can't even tell and I'm a doctor," said Doc, the father.

"Well, I'm sure it makes them better photographers," Delia replied.

While Delia is busy with wedding arrangements, Courtney's ex-boyfriend Ryan shows up at the house. Courtney had broken things off with Ryan about six months ago and met Harper. Both Courtney and Ryan are writers and Courtney had been able to write often while she was dating Ryan, but has been unable to since living with Harper (who is studying to be a psychologist). Despite this, she's convinced herself that she's happier now than ever and is willing to live a content - if uneventful - life with him. Meanwhile, Ryan is on a quest to write a modern version of "On The Road". His visit comes after hitchhiking from New York City to their house in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was completely unaware that today was Courtney's wedding day. In fact, he can't believe she would ever get married.

The father and PB frantically try to get Ryan to leave, but when his clothes are placed in the washer by mistake, he's forced to stay until they're done. He spends most of his time hiding in the bathroom leaving the audience to wonder when the inevitable meeting between him and his ex will occur. The moment of truth closes out the first act with tremendous laughter.

As the mother attempts to stay calm with the aid of modern medicine and the father begins to crumble after meeting Harper's parents, the second act morphs from non-stop jokes to more of a dramatic manner. While many powerful dramas often include comedy to diffuse the tension, this was one of the first times I've ever seen it in reverse -- a comedy that uses drama to reinforce how funny the play is. The combination works surprisingly well -- probably due to the setting. A wedding day is the perfect opportunity to show the dark secrets held in each family. Between the stress and importance of the day and the hopes and dreams involved with marriage, Lewis Black is able to use comedy to mask a truly interesting and poignant tale.

While the cast is fantastic, Mark Linn-Baker, one of the stars of the 80s hit show "Perfect Strangers", steals the show as Doc Coleman, the father. Maybe it's a role that reaches the men more, but you could really feel for a guy that desperately wanted a son yet wound up with three daughters instead. His performance is simply wonderful -- from the physical comedy of racing to hide Ryan to the scene involving his first cigarette in 25 years (a scene in which he goes from cigarette to booze, back and forth non-stop for about two minutes!) to a short skit involving him and the cake's bride and groom to the incredibly subtle way he showed how drunk he was with a near fall -- something that was done so well you'd swear he wasn't acting, but nearly fell on his own. The father also managed to have some of the best one-liners in the play:

While trying to avoid Ryan's parents who are at the front door, the doctor says, "Where is the emergency call when I really need it?"

As his wife scrambles to fix the catering situation, he finds himself alone, "The shrimp boats are sinking and I'm alone on the deck."

And when the situation seems to be completely out of hand, he returns to the mini-bar, "One more drink and everything should be clear."

This was one of the funniest plays I've ever seen, largely thanks to Mark's performance. In a fine ensemble cast, he was the glue that kept everything together. If this play was on Broadway, he would probably garner talk for a Tony nomination for his brilliant portrayal. Between his performance and Black's stellar writing, this play is a must see!


Photos by Frank Wojciechowski


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Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.
Pebble Players Presents "Heathers, the Musical: High School Edition"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Celebrating their 10th season, Pebble Players has been entertaining Summit residents and audiences from surrounding towns with sophisticated Off-Broadway quality performances. The 2018 Season opens with "Heathers The Musical: High School Edition," directed by Jayne Myers and choreographed by Jaimie Woodruff.  Performances are Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 18 at 2:00pm. 
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies from Thursday, March 21, 2019 - Saturday, March 23, 2019. The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz). Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, re-creates the original show’s elegant dancing and tapping as choreographer.
Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater present Teahouse by Lao She
(PRINCETON, NJ) --Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Teahouse by Lao She on November 16, 17 and 18 at 8:00pm and November 17 at 2:00pm in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Teahouse is considered a masterpiece of contemporary Chinese theater, spanning 50 years in modern Chinese history from the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Republican Revolution to the birth of the People’s Republic, bringing together over sixty characters who represent all walks of life. The production is directed by senior Changshuo Liu.
Axelrod's Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program Presents "Peter Pan"
(OCEAN TOWNSHIP, NJ) --  A family musical that’s perfect for the holiday season, “Peter Pan” is flying onto the Axelrod stage December 8-16. Axelrod’s award-winning Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts program presents one of Broadway’s timeless classics in a fully staged production directed by Lisa Goldfarb with musical direction by Randy Hurst and choreography by Wendy Roman.  


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The five-time Tony award-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, returns to the stage with a 10th Anniversary Tour at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino! Performed in the venue’s ultra-modern Sound Waves theater, Rock of Ages runs from now until November 4, 2018.
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Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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