The Inspector (Bill Henricks) and Claudine (Greta Kishbaugh) scheme in “Pajama Tops.”
When Ed Fletcher’s Early Bird Dinner Theatre presents the comical “Pajama Tops,” running from July 12 through Sept. 2, expect an ample dose of mistaken identities, wacky situations and spicy innuendo delivered by a talented cast.
Written by Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert and based on the French play “Moumou,” written by Jean De Letraz around 1950, “Pajama Tops” relies on misunderstandings, insinuations and impending infidelity to weave its comic web.
For younger generations who may not be familiar with the history of farce in theater, credible comparisons of the genre could be drawn to American television’s “Three’s Company” or the British sitcom “Fawlty Towers.”
At a recent preview, the cast of “Pajama Tops” maintained a fast-paced plot and delivered wry wisecracks with impeccable timing.
Greta Kishbaugh, playing Claudine Amour, is first to take the stage. Amour, a ditzy maid and aspiring courtesan, establishes the ribald tone. Bill Henricks, playing Inspector Legrand, next appears searching for a scandal before the curtains close on his career. Finally, Barbara Anthony, playing Yvonne Chauvinet, appears and imparts just enough information to let the audience know the roller coaster ride is about to begin.
The setup: It seems her husband, George, played by Paul Gibson, is planning a business trip. Unknown to Yvonne, his “business” is with a voluptuous woman he hopes to make his future mistress. Yvonne, in the meantime, has secretly invited the woman – Babette Latouche, played by Tracy Borgatti, to spend the weekend. George is left scrambling, trying to keep Yvonne and Babette from learning too much information.
Enter Joseph Alan Johnson’s Leonard Jolijoli – a role once played by the late John Inman in London’s West End. Like Inman in practically any role, Johnson is the spark that sets the stage afire. His very presence seems to amplify the performances of those with whom he interacts. When George tries to dupe his wife into believing this jaunty, effeminate poet is Mr. Latouche, the hysterical charade has begun.
Once all the character introductions are out of the way, the laughs are nearly perpetual as the farce races toward the inevitable, uproarious climax.
Aside from an occasional sound problem and a few instances when the faux French accents got so thick that a smidgen of dialogue was lost, the show exceeded expectations and the cast met the challenge of their roles splendidly. In particular, Johnson, Borgatti and Henricks showed an intimacy with their characters and newcomer Dean Iverson invested Jacque Latouche with a subtle but sardonic quality that made the character stand out.
Wearer of many hats, Robin New – director, stage manager and art director – pulls together the story and the cast without a single misstep. Her contribution to the production cannot be understated.
“Pajama Tops” will play July 12 through Sept. 2 at the Italian American Club, 200 S. McMullen Booth Road. Performances are Thursday through Sunday, seating at 4 p.m., curtain at 6 p.m. Matinees will be Thursday and Saturday, seating at 11 a.m., curtain at 1 p.m. Tickets are $29.90 plus tax.