Carpenter Square’s Season 35 Excites with “The Gorges Motel”
In 1921, Luigi Pirandello wrote “Six Characters in Search of an Author” a comedic one act, receiving critical acclaim. Nearly 100 years later in 2017, six authors in search of structure plotted to create a comedy of nine vignettes titled “The Gorges Motel” a popular new comedy.
“The Gorges Motel” opens Carpenter Square’s 35th season with light comedy from the six authors. The setting for “The Gorges Motel” is Watkins Glen, NY, in the scenic Finger Lakes area carved by an ancient glacier. The village of Watkins Glen is quite small, although noted for auto racing. The fictional motel is faded and dated, but still hosts a variety of visitors. A number of guests have come to the motel to attend a wedding and they each have interesting stories to tell, as well as the stories of guests not part of the wedding.
James Hindman leads the group of respected playwrights in the efforts and his story is in three parts interwoven among the others. Act One of “The Gorges Motel” begins with his ‘Missing, Part 1’ introducing the audience to the landlady of the motel and a mysteriously familiar young man. Following are three more short ‘playlets’ by three different authors. Craig Pospisil contributes ‘Kissing Cousins’ then Isaac Himmelman presents ‘What Lola Saw’ followed by ‘Reverend’ written by Lynne Halliday.
The second act begins with Hindman’s ‘Missing, Part 2’ and ends with his ‘Missing, Part 3’ to tie up the rather loose ends that accumulate. Sandwiched between are three more vignettes: ‘Second Chance’ from Halliday, ‘Breckenridge’ by Gretchen Cryer and ‘Here Comes the Drone’ by Arlene Hutton.
Rhonda Clark directs an excellent cast who are quick on their feet as well as quick witted, and they do a good job of maintaining the comedy. Having six different authors creates a certain disconnect, making an uneven narrative unavoidable. The three parts of ‘Missing’ are a single entity but the six remaining vignettes could stand alone easily. Cryer’s ‘Breckenridge’ is particularly poignant and the two actors tell a beautiful almost heart-wrenching story. ‘Breckenridge’ does stand alone, and with these two performers the vignette stands out. Nevertheless, it blends the least to the composite story, at a time when a bit of tedium is creeping into the composition.
There are seven ensemble actors in “The Gorges Motel” and they all exhibit superior comedic timing. Their overall skill in creating a number of diverse characters and switching from one to another seamlessly is essential and they demonstrate that comedy essential: perfect timing.
Vikki Simer creates the perfect busybody landlady in the ‘Missing’ series, but in ‘Second Chance’ her character becomes tragic and beautiful. Simer is a trouper, and her skill in connecting with the audience is excellent.
Cam Taylor is uniquely different in three roles: the sensitive Robert in ‘Missing’ and the devious Wayne in Reverend, as well as the incredibly silly Trevor in ‘Here Comes the Drone’ each one quite skillful. Mariah Warren has three characters, Dani, Willow and Kayla. Her characterization as Dani in ‘Kissing Cousins’ is a little frenetic, but her Willow in ‘Second Chance’ is brilliant and Kayla in ‘Here Comes the Drone’ is the perfect frenemy! Karen Garlitz also plays three different women: Wendy in ‘Kissing Cousins’ is calm and cool but she does not connect with her sister, Dani, played by Warren. The two of them are not believable as sisters; but Garlitz is also wonderful as Debbie in ‘Reverend’ and she is absolutely hilarious as the bloodied and bowed bride Jennifer in ‘Here Comes the Drone’ showing great comedic skill.
DiAnn McDown as Lola and Angela Lux as Angie take Himmelman’s short ‘What Lola Saw’ to great lengths of hysteria. With thick New York accents reminiscent of Fran Drescher yet minus the irritation they are the visionary Lola and her niece, the irrepressible, irresponsible, irresistible Angie. With the addition of a wig and a dialect these two lost their ‘r’s and recognition. At curtain call, the audience continue to look for the two actresses, not realizing they are played by the two blonde actresses already taking their bows! ‘What Lola Saw’ is one of the major comic highlights of the show. Lux is soft and wonderful as Laura in ‘Missing, Part 2’ and McDown is superb as Penelope in ‘Breckenridge’ each of them displaying great talent.
David Burkhart is an actor of some stature in Oklahoma City and his three characters are also excellently performed. His Liam in ‘Kissing Cousins’ is good, but his Terry in ‘Breckenridge’ is outstanding. ‘Breckenridge’ is the tragic relief in the overall comic show. Burkhart along with McDown bring just the right amount of natural humor into the vignette. Together they have perfect timing and lovely chemistry. In ‘Here Comes the Drone’ Burkhart’s incredibly insensitive Greg is very funny. Burkhart is multi-talented and the artistic lobby display for this show exhibits his beautiful and expressive eye in photography.
These seven talents are joined by an eighth. Burkhart will only be with the show as Liam/Terry/Greg for the first two weekends through September 15. The third weekend David Mays will come on board in those roles as Liam/Terry/Greg. Mays is a considerable talent, and his performances are sure to be equal to Burkhart’s although surely they will be completely different interpretations. Mays will be performing thorough the final weekend closing the show the final Saturday.
“The Gorges Motel” plays at Carpenter Square through September 29, 2018. Curtain is 8:00 pm with a Sunday matinee performance September 23rd at 2:00 pm. Also there are two Thursday performances, September 20, and 27 and those have a 7:30 curtain. Carpenter Square Theatre is located at 800 West Main in downtown Oklahoma City. For tickets and information visit www.carpentersquare.com or call the box office Tuesday through Friday afternoons at 405-232-6500. “The Gorges Motel” is unceasingly amusing and a credit to the directing skills of Rhonda Clark, Artistic Director.
Bonus Material: …………………….by Adrienne Proctor
David Mays steps in for Burkhart on the second half of the run, taking over the roles of Liam, Terry and Greg. Mays interacts with the cast as if he’s been there all along. Mays is charming as Liam, heartfelt and engaging as Terry, and hilarious as Greg. The vignette ‘Breckenridge’ is a standout piece for Mays, and his chemistry with McDown in this scene is lovely. The two have the audience ready to take the “plunge” and laughing out loud. Mays is a natural addition to the ensemble, making the transition from one actor to another indistinguishable. The Gorges Motel is a laugh a minute that tugs at the heart and brings a tear to the eye. Bravo to all seven lovely performers.