High Jinks And Low Humor: Theatre Suburbia's Who Was That Masked Man?

The set up: "Meller-drammer" says it all - outlandish acting, deliberately exaggerated actions, simple plots, a mustachioed villain and a damsel in distress. Hisses at the villain are encouraged as are cheers for the hero, and Theatre Suburbia caps it all by providing popcorn to throw at the cast - and the cast sometimes throws it back.

The execution: An uncomplicated set permits close to a theatre-in-the-round arrangement, and a bar in Slick Willy's Saloon doubles as a teller's cage for the local bank. The widow (tearfully and well-played in the expected histrionic mode by Susan O'Connor) is slated to lose her home to the evil bank president with a mustache and black cape, certain emblems of villainy. Glenn Dodson plays the morally-challenged villain with confidence, but I did miss some of the lip-smacking relish and the savoring of pure evil that is the traditional hallmark of roles such as these. I especially liked Donna Dixon, who played the barmaid in a attractive period red gown with eyeshadow to match, and who dominated the stage with her powerful self-assurance.

Daniel Corrigan was great as the dim-witted, bungling sheriff and he managed to add nuance - believe it or not - to his role. Amesti Reioux played the widow's daughter - she can flutter a mean-eye-lid, nailed the ingenue smile, and made us want to protect her virtue from the inevitable assault.

The young Andrew Miles was effective as the Magnolia Kid, a gun-slinger dressed in black, but with so much cherry-red jacket fringe that I feared it might slow down his quick draw. The hero was the Masked Man, played by James Plake, and, while I found him unconvincing as the hero, he came to life in a dance routine in a dress - no, not cross-dressing, just a disguise. There is more dancing in the play, including an energetic, engaging can-can by a woman well-past the first blush of youth And there is singing as well, by the cast and by the audience - a song-sheet is provided with the program, though the songs are familiar classics.

The verdict: The entire cast worked well together under the able direction of Doris Merten, and created a world of high jinks and low humor which, much to my surprise, I came to believe in. The events are enhanced by Alice Smith providing appropriate piano accompaniment. Nineteenth-century histrionics cavort shamelessly on stage in a fun-filled performance, and, unless a curmudgeon by nature, you'll enjoy it. See it - you may exit with popcorn in your hair, but there will be a smile on your lips.

Through Aug 27, Theatre Suburbia, 4106 Way Out West Drive, 713-682-3525.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.