Company OnStage Seduces With Classic Farce The Threesome

The set-up: The ambitious and scrappy Company OnStage, long a valued Houston fixture, brings a classic French farce to humorous life in The Threesome as a young man continues an affair with the wife of a friend, the friend seeks the favors of a female employee, and past indiscretions arise to plague the philandering men while acquiescent women flirt with impunity. The tone is lighthearted, and there are far more attempts at trysts than successes. Plot complications need not be taken seriously, but they involve an off-stage taxi driver prone to blackmail and a note placed in an ingeniously concealed wall safe.

The execution: The pace is kept brisk by director Patti Lindloff, who permits the talented veteran performers to create memorable characters. Casey Coale plays Alphonse Marjavel with blustering charm and a lascivious itch, and his attractive wandering wife is portrayed with Gallic coquetry by Aneela Qureshi. Danny Uddin, making his Company OnStage debut, is excellent as the seducer, and his acting strength helps anchor the whirlwind of slamming doors that ensues. L. Robert Westeen plays an Alsatian employee, and comes close to stealing the show with an increasingly inspired comic performance. His attractive wife, played by Natasha Sollenne, lets us see why men pursue her - and her gratitude for being given an orange is wonderful indeed. In a minor role Molly Sapp is effective as an attractive maiden.

Marlo Blue has the important role of the maid, with the usual thankless role of exposition, but is perhaps too serious for the general tone. Jim Allman plays an aristocratic older man, but doesn't project the authority of the other cast members. The costumes by Grace Galloway are attractive and colorful and the scenic design is handsome, with necessary set changes handled deftly during intermissions.

The verdict: After a somewhat less successful Act I - the wife is a bit too perky and too given to panic, not providing a varied performance - the action and humor ramp up in Acts II and III, and pleasure pours from the cornucopia of Gallic amusement at the foibles and follies of men - whether high or low - as they pursue the eternal chase. The Threesome, translated by Neil Vivian Bartlett, is a mid-19th comedy by Eugene Marin Labiche, and Company OnStage is to be commended for resurrecting this most enjoyable heirloom in its regional premiere.

Through June 11, Company OnStage, 536 Westbury Square, 713-726-1219.