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Review: 'Who? Maid? Who?' keeps the laughter moving

| Friday, July 30, 2010

Farce is a specialty of Mountain Playhouse.

It's a genre that this long-running professional theater has honed into a well-running and dependably entertaining laugh-getting machine. So, it's no surprise that "Who• Maid• Who?" generates grins, giggles and guffaws.

Written by David Lassig, "Who• Maid• Who?" won last year's Mountain Playhouse International Comedy Playwriting Contest. It's receiving its world premiere through Aug. 8 at the theater.

At the center of Lassig's comedy is Joe, a married man, about to embark on an adulterous affair with Marsha, the young woman who sells him his morning coffee.

Joe has planned the a dirty weekend with at the cabin he and his wife own. He arrives with flowers, champagne, a weekend supply of prepared foods and an alibi. His best friend, Chris, will spend the weekend at the cabin under the guise of helping Joe with some work. But before Joe and Marsha have a chance to exchange so much as a handshake, the madness begins.

First Joe's wife, Robin, arrives, with a revealing French maid's costume and a readiness to provide Joe with sexual distractions during his work breaks.

She's followed in due course by Joe's parents, Gladys and George; Chris's wife, Beth; and a snoopy police officer.

As he struggles to cope with this full house, Joe quickly concocts ever more complicated explanations and deceptions. Friend Chris is alternately introduced as the guy who's having an affair with Marsha, the chef, the gardener who's having an affair with the French maid, and the French maid.

Lassig's script derives much of its comedy from the multiple interruptions to Joe's amorous attempts and the ever-growing complexity of Joe's explanations of who's who, which slows the action in the first act.

The second act moves faster with characters pursuing or eluding each other while sprinting through and slamming the set's six doors.The thoroughly professional cast is headed by Justin Packard as the inventive but unsuccessfully unfaithful Joe. He's a deft hand at convincing the hapless Chris (Todd Adamson) into a succession of lies and bizarre impersonations.

Chris ends up attracting the amorous advances of both Joe's mom Gladys (Suzanne Ishee), who thinks he's the chef, and Joe's dad George (Frederic Heringes), who believes Chris is the French maid. Ishee and Heringes are delightful and believable as the lusty senior couple.

Ashley Puckett Gonzales shines as Robin, Joe's much put-upon wife who eventually gets the upper hand. Elise Toscano plays the appealingly principled Marsha. Sarah Corey mines the humor as Chris's bewildered wife and Taylor Curtis is the dim but dogged detective.

The cast displayed their inventiveness and professionalism at Wednesday's matinee when a technical malfunction forced them to alter their blocking, no small accomplishment in a farce that relies on fast, seamless, perfectly timed exits and entrances.

Director Guy Stroman, who last season directed "The Glass Menagerie" at Mountain Playhouse with Sandy Duncan, acquits himself well, propelling the cast and laughs with a minimum of schtick and some highly amusing sight gags.

Additional Information:

'Who• Maid• Who?'

Produced by: Mountain Playhouse

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Tuesday-Aug. 7, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Aug. 7, 3 p.m. Aug. 8

Admission: $15 to $32

Where: Mountain Playhouse, Route 985 North, 1/2 mile north of Route 30, Jennerstown

Details: 814-629-9201 or website

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