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Relative Values at the Masquers

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 28 March 2006

This rehearsal proved conclusively that I should stop going to rehearsals. Watching this play before it was ready for Opening Night (in order to write this review for you), I can no longer have a pristine reaction to the play when it is ready for prime time. It’s a shame because I bet, in a few days, the play will be even better.

This is going to be an extremely funny play. A play one wants to see many times. Book a seat early in the play’s schedule, so you too can see it again.

The set, an English manor house in the early 1950s, centred around the couch, a masterpiece of opulence and the efficacy of a staple gun. Other delectable details provided by Albert Meyers, Set Designer, included enviable hand-painted wallpaper and the wildest worst fireplace mantel you’d ever want to own. Of course, if I hadn’t gone to the rehearsal, I would never have heard all those piquant stories of life in the Masquers from Albert and Jerry Telfer (photographer for photo at left).

Nigel, the Earl of Marshwood (played by Brian Jones, photo centre), had announced he would bring home his glamorous movie starlet fiancée Miss Miranda Frayle (played by Emily Cannon-Brown) to the shock of this rural English village.

The butler, Frederick Crestwell (played by Robert Taylor who also happens to be the Director), was far too handsome (and well-dressed) for a mere butler, but as a socialist, he deigned to condescend to serve the household. One of the few members of the household too well-bred to disclose his opinion of the engaged couple, Crestwell’s attitude was gradually revealed as he effortlessly manipulated other characters, despite his apparent insouciance.

Alice Baxter, the young maid, is played by Jennifer Carrier who also happens to be Stage Manager. In several incidents, Baxter was called upon to prove her youthful foolishness to the audience and does so with alacrity.

Mrs. Dori Moxton (played by Marilyn Hughes), was the darkest horse of the production, a character whose hidden secrets and repressed personality unfolded in astonishing ways throughout the play. Marilyn’s performance is outstanding. If telling you about Moxie’s captivating escapades could be done without infringing on the play’s right to secrecy, I would do it in a shot, really, but I tell you, it can’t be done, and the neighbourhood would never stand for it. Harumpf!

Moxie is proof positive that life creates art. Moxie was written for Marilyn Hughes’ body shape and her antics built for Hughes’ mobile face. Moxie existed to be dressed by the costumer. Moxie is the magic of theatre at its very best.

I admit I was expecting Felicity, the Dowager Countess of Marshwood (played by Loralee Windsor, photo right), to be a perfect sour apple (as who wouldn’t be), but she surprised me by employing traits for which the English are so well known: the ability to be polite to a fault in serious matters, to be positively caustic over trivialities, and to intermingle these parts with great humour and a sly wit, thereby allowing the English person to be telling the absolute truth under the guise of pleasant nonsense conversation. As the play developed, I found myself liking the Dowager more and more. This was proof that art creates life; in Loralee Windsor’s last Masquers character, it took me a long time to warm up to her.

To me, the lazy dissipated nephew, Peter Ingleton (played by Simon Patton), looked too good to be true, his flexible smile covertly revealing passionate lips. At a break in the rehearsal, I asked him if he owned his shoes or whether they were another marvelous adornment by costumer Tammara Plankers (She has many tantalizing visual treats in this production). Why do we notice his shoes, you ask? All the more reason to see the play, my dear. It turned out he owned his shoes, though they were purchased at a rummage sale for 50 cents, thereby lending credence to Simon’s ability for dissembling. Peter spent much of the play making asides which were snide, slightly rude, and screamingly funny. One can’t imagine a more perfect portrayal of this character who must have seen himself as a mixture of Peter O’Toole, Sean Connery and Bertie Wooster.

Neighbours Lady Cynthia Hayling (played by Linda Ellinwood) and Admiral Hayling (played by Walter Phelps) manifested all the traits one has come to expect from rural county spots. Lady Cynthia, frequently in fanciful dress, showed great presence as a nosy opinionated gossip and the Admiral harumpf, harumpf-ed his way through speeches sounding like he was blowing his nose. Sumptuous!

The last time I saw Brian Jones, he portrayed a stuffed gentlemanly Englishman, obviously a character with which he feels comfortable. As Nigel, he was stiffer and slightly more stupid, although definitely a character with whom we, as expected, felt some camaraderie. As the play developed and the truth unfolded, Nigel’s surprisingly provocative expressions were highly enjoyable.

Emily Cannon-Brown (photo, left) is a very beautiful young woman who played the part of another beautiful young woman of shallow character and gorgeous outfits. Kudos to the costumer. With flamboyant gestures, Miranda drifted across the stage looking partly like a model giving the audience several inviting portraits of her outfits, and partly like an actress on display as she framed delectable glimpses of her figure moving beneath the fabric. Miranda was not intended as a character with whom we would empathize, though her antics were amusing. Her tragedies are histrionically well-delivered.

The famous American actor and male heart-throb, Don Lucas (played by Kevin Hazelton), predictably stole hearts from the moment he set foot on the stage, starting with the maid, Baxter, whose performance as a star-struck fish was superb. Hazelton is a gorgeous young man who played the part of an attractive and famous young man, “young” in this sense including the exaggerations of youthful temperament. Lucas began as a tough guy, soon crowded out by ardor, then fawning, then followed by a soupçon of viciousness before randomly repeating his repertoire. He displayed a Very American manner in his respect for elders and had no difficulty with the familiarity of addressing the Dowager by her first name (unlike the Very English Moxie), an exchange he and the Dowager accomplished with a substantial amount of both humour and wistfulness.

This play is fun. Spring has begun and we can smell its freshness in the air. “Relative Values” is a heavenly addition to the season and worth seeing
at least once!