THE CONCORD JOURNAL May 15, 19’
Concord Players Production
The Concord Players are putting on ‘A Thurber Carnival" in Pops’ style at the Veterans Building--draft beer by the pitcher, champagne in a bottle, light drinks a few cents a shot--and all in all it’s hard to see how they could do it better.
Taken away from the printed page and put on stage much of Mr. Thurber’s material is awfully slight; and if the Players had chosen to approach it straight on, they might have contrived a series of thoroughly nondescript evenings. But someone, somewhere along the line, had the happy idea of turning the whole affair into a genteel grape and hop festival, and approached in this fashion it becomes splendidly all-of-a-piece.
If an occasional cork belts the ceiling in the course of Thurber’s droll recitatives, so much the better. Set design and art work are first class for any circuit, amateur or professional; Bill Travers’ staging is excellent; performances are at the very least adequate and in some instances outstanding; the waitresses are good-looking; the audience laughs when it’s supposed to and the whole occasion manifests such unassuming good humor, that by evening’s end it won’t matter to you that you haven’t seen Sartre or Ibsen. You didn’t want to.
Although, as indicated, the touch is light, the touch has been very deft. This is a polished production, all the way from playbill design to musical effects. There are very few of those dark uneasy pauses, characterizing most amateur undertakings, which indicate that someone backstage is lugging around something heavy and hasn’t quite got it in place yet. The most notable thing about the work which must have gone into the enterprise is the degree to which it doesn’t show: things simply seem to happen as they should. The actors are well provided for--but not oversupplied-- and they, in turn, without exception, avoid the temptation of loading their material with more dramatic emphasis than it could bear. Skill and understatement all the way.
The cast consists of seven men and six women (and the jazz combo of four, as long as we’re counting) who are sprinkled through 16 or so—what shall we call them?—comic turns. If not all equally funny, they are all at least short, and all buoyed by the taste of the performers.
Belle McDonald, to take an example, makes her way through one of the evening’s least distinguished pieces, ‘The Macbeth Murder mystery.’ with marvelous grace; similarly Irving McDowell in the case of 'Gentlemen Shoppers.' Neither of these, to put it kindly, is a real rib-tickler; and if their principals had felt constrained to make them so by arch carryings-on they might only have embarrassed us.
In cases where the material is sturdier, as with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,’ we are on each occasion favored with a principal who makes the most of it. Art Raybold, playing Mitty. manages somehow to look as if Thurber had drawn him. Reed Albright does splendidly with ‘The Pet Department.’ Gretchen Buntschuh makes a delightfully malign housewife of Mrs. Preble. Betty Harney narrates the animated film. ‘The Moth and the Star’ about as well as it could be done. And so on and on. And the small goodies are there too witness the work of Perry Boyden, in a quite incidental role in ‘Gentlemen Shoppers--a frail piece but a very crafty actor.
In summing it up, it’s hard to find fault with the production (except perhaps to note that Dee and Tunnicliffe Funeral Homes provided the chairs and didn’t get program credit--but let this notice put that right. The tablecloths are clean and the beer is cool. Go!