ACTs Leading Ladies provides a great escape

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 1, 2007

By Geri McShane, Assistant editor

If you&8217;re thinking of going to the Albert Lea Community Theatre production of &8220;Leading Ladies,&8221; be prepared to laugh. A lot.

The farce by Ken Ludwig, whom ACT audiences know for &8220;Moon Over Buffalo&8221; and &8220;Lend Me a Tenor,&8221; opens tonight at the Albert Lea Civic Theatre. The key to a good farce is the audience&8217;s ability to believe in the ridiculous. This play has plenty of ridiculous moments, which make it just plain fun.

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&8220;Leading Ladies&8221; is about two Shakespearean actors, Jack Clark (Mark Place) and Leo Gable (Rob Frankel), who are down on their luck and bombing out while performing &8220;Scenes from Shakespeare&8221; on the Moose Lodge circuit in Pennsylvania.

When they hear that an old lady, Florence, in York, Pa. (Val Forsythe), is about to die and leave her fortune to her two long-lost English nephews, they resolve to pass themselves off as her beloved relatives and get the cash. The trouble is, when they get to York, they find that the relatives aren&8217;t nephews, but nieces!

This, Leo says, is the role of a lifetime!

And the fun begins. Jack and Leo aren&8217;t going to be dissuaded by a little thing like that, so they dress up as women. Which is where the farce comes in, because these guys make some of the homeliest women ever. No one would ever for a minute think they were really women, but of course the other actors in the show never question it. It makes for some very entertaining moments.

Leo falls head over heels in love with Meg, Florence&8217;s niece (Amy Wasson), who is engaged to the local minister, Duncan (Larry Pierce). Duncan is incredibly cheap and won&8217;t even buy Meg an engagement ring. He has some pretty high hopes for the cash himself.

Amber Edwards plays Audrey, who meets Jack and Leo on a train and even happens to know the old lady. Audrey isn&8217;t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and attracts the attention of Jack. Jeff Hanson plays her boyfriend, Butch, and Steve Schwartz plays the doctor, Butch&8217;s father.

Director Rory Mattson has assembled a cast full of great character actors. It&8217;s hard to imagine anyone other than the likes of Pierce, Forsythe and Schwartz in their roles. The leads (whether they&8217;re playing Jack and Leo or Maxine and Stephanie) play so well off each other. And Wasson, Edwards and Hanson all hold their own.

The quick changes for the leading actors make for some interesting moments as well as do the twists and turns and mistaken identities.

The set was beautifully designed by Steve Kinney. Costumes are by Rosalie Truax. Lighting design is by Mike Wangen and sound design by Lynn Musgrave. The crew includes Loyal Leas, Barb Osmundson and Lori Larsen.

The play runs about 2 1/2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

&8220;Leading Ladies&8221; runs tonight through Saturday and again Nov. 7-10 at the Albert Lea Civic Theatre. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 377-4371.

If you need a good escape from reality, &8220;Leading Ladies&8221; offers just that.

Tickets, please

What: &8220;Leading Ladies&8221;

When: Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 7-10 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Albert Lea Civic Theatre, 147 N. Broadway

How: Call the box office at 377-4371