The Rumors were True... for the most part.
KC Fringe Festival
The buzz around the city is that Hanky Panky is "amazing" and "incredible." So this reviewer had to see if the rumors were true. They are....for the most part. And that "for the most part" only really refers to the acting.
Vicki Vodrey, the playwright, has done a wonderful job putting together just the right words for her characters. And the director, Richard Dines, excels at pairing the right words with the right movements, so technically, this piece was a pleasure to behold. The set was well done, and the bald head down center was a piece of comedy all by itself. When first looking at the stage, one may have the gut reaction, "Gee, it's going to be hard to move 9 people around that space." But that worry doesn't go much past the first minute of the play as Dines almost-expertly avoids the pit-falls of bad blocking and gives us something logical and exciting to watch.
The story wraps around a group of family members, whose own individual bitterness about past problems keeps everyone distracted from the downtrodden circumstances lying, literally, right in front of them. The play escalates quite nicely to a tad bit overly-dramatized, but not overly-acted, story of Joe's molestation as a child. And it concludes with a quite humorous reading of the "Last Rights." An incredibly touching omission of the family priest is a great moment in which family is put before religious practice - which is not something that happens a lot.
The actors tending to the director's will were Diane Bulan (Shelly), Peggy Friesen (Lorraine), Charles Fugate (Ed), Cynthia Hyer (Phyllis), Herman Johansen (Mike), Jennifer Mays (Kathy), Mary Gay Rogers (Abigail), Rusty Sneary (Joe), and Evan White (Reverend). As I said before, what a fantastic ensemble of players for this piece.... for the most part. Sneary gave us nothing less than wonderful. Literally, from moment 1, he was on-point with his comedy and his realism. Mays was simply delightful; her effervescent, light-hearted, and sparkling personality filled the room. Her permanent smile, while annoying as hell to the rest of the characters, was so very appropriate and capturing. This is why it is so magical when she finally bites back at Lorraine near the end - and gets a huge laugh for herself. White, whose incredibly awkward performance as the Reverend, eventually wins us over with his innocence and occasional glances in Joe's (Sneary) direction while Joe is doing something questionable. His performance during the Last Rights was hilarious because he simply played off his fellow actors, and the audience loved him for it. Hyer's portrayal of Phyllis is right where it needs to be seeing as how it was painfully obvious how Jewish she was before anyone even called her Jewish.
The only problems with this production were certain over-played or under-played dramatic moments. Most of these moments started happening when Lorraine (Friesen) got onto the stage. The build-up of Lorraine as a terrifyingly annoying and bitter hag was not kept by Friesen. When Friesen would say something nasty, it often did not come out sounding mean at all. But the entire room of actors jumped on her, and the whole thing seemed like an exaggerated version of what it was actually supposed to be. The fault is shared by both Friesen (whose portrayal did not match the build-up) and the rest of the cast (who were essentially reacting to the build-up and not the actual character being played).
Overall, though, that minor complaint is not enough to keep any potential audience member away from this production. The great moments outweigh the bad substantially, and with a 4 out of 5, it is highly recommended for viewing.
read the review at KC Stage