Reviewed by Stephen Radosh
Take one part I LOVE LUCY, one part French Farce and add a heavy splash of message. Shake them together and when you pour it out onstage you get Topher Payne's PERFECT ARRANGEMENT now being presented by DEZART PERFORMS. Set in the Washington D.C. of 1950, PERFECT ARRANGEMENT provides plenty of laughs delivered by a top-notch cast. But amidst all the humor derived from the social norms of the day there is an undercurrent that is anything but funny. For back then, it wasn’t only the lives and careers of suspected communists in America that were being destroyed, the same was happening to thousands of gay men and women employed in various branches of the government. All in all, not one of America’s more shining moments and certainly not one you would think of as a source of laughter. But Topher Payne uses that incongruity, especially in the first act, quite successfully.
The plot revolves around a gay couple and a lesbian couple who have managed to have their cake and eat it too by creating a ‘perfect arrangement’…. at least so far. The two ‘couples’ are living in adjacent apartments. In one are Bob Martindale (Adam Jonas Segaller), a State Department employee in charge of ferreting out “undersireables,” and his wife, Millie (Phylicia Mason). Their next-door neighbors are Jim Baxter (Hanz Enyeart) and his wife Norma (Olivia Saccomanno) who happens to be Bob’s secretary. Thanks to a connecting door buried deep in the closet (fill in your own jokes here) the couples are able to swap their legal spouses for their real ones without anyone in the outside world being the wiser. Even Bob’s boss, Theodore Sanderson (Hal O’Connell) and his wonderfully ditzy wife Kitty (Deborah Harmon) make it clear in the first scene that they have no idea of this deception. Trouble comes in the form of Barbara Grant (Yo Younger) another State Department employee who has been called back to Washington and is about to be investigated as a ‘loose woman.’ Without giving away any of the further complications and plot twists, let’s just say that things reach a boiling point where the status quo is no longer acceptable and that the time for change is now at hand.
As their characters are more deeply defined and developed, the women in the cast fare better than their male counterparts. Aided by the spot-on period costuming of Michael Mullen and the perfect coiffures supplied by James Geier, they each deliver strong performances. Two of the women, however, were stand-outs. First is Deborah Harmon as Kitty who looked and acted like she was in a permanent state of befuddlement and surprise and continually scored big laughs. The other is Yo Younger who delivers a knock-out performance ranging from broad comedy to fierce intensity. When the apartment door opens for her entrance late in the first act, she is a vision in a stunning period black and white outfit which says “here comes trouble” and she delivers on that promise. Brava!
Under Michael Shaw’s excellent direction, the play never lags and delivers the laughs as well as the emotional punch needed for the final scenes of the play. In the current political climate, the play resonates with a truth and a message which should not be forgotten. It is a production worthy of attention! For more information and tickets visit WWW.DEZARTPERFORMS.COM