Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
It is Washington D.C. mid 1950s. Bob and Millie Martindale and pals Norma and Jim Baxter live side by side, but things aren't really what they seem. When the doors are closed to the rest of the world, the couples are really Bob and Jim, and Millie and Norma. Bob is a career government employee and Norma works in the same office, while Jim is a teacher and Millie a homemaker. They interact with Bob and Norma's boss, Theodore Sunderson, and wife Kitty while Barbara Grant, a figure from the past also employed on the outskirts of Bob and Norma's office, also figures.
The first act plays like a drawing room comedy with undertones of something ominous. The second act continues in this vein with a few minutes of door-slamming farce before it takes a turn toward the serious and really examines the lavender scare and how it effected actual people. Once things have become more serious, the plotting is a little less focused, but this is where the meat of the play is. While far from a perfect play, it resonates strongly. The production has proven so popular that it has been extended.
The acting is good to very good, not helped, I think, by writing that does not give great emotional depth to the characters. They tend to be broadly drawn, preparatory for the ending when the shit has hit the fan and everyone is scrambling, some to hold the status quo, others to march boldly forward in search of bettering the world. Michael David is Bob Martindale opposite Jessie Taylor as "wife" Millie. He is an all-American guy, and she is a career girl. Meagan Therese Rippey is Norma Baxter opposite Rob Glauz as "husband" Jim. She is a homemaker who loves to shop, entertain, and keep up a wonderful home for her "wife," while he is a teacher. Theodore Sunderson, played by Patrick Ryan Sullivan, and wife Kitty, played by Donna DeLonay, are a typical straight couple of the era, he all business manager, she a flighty woman's guild member. Barbara Grant, an unapologetic lesbian, is played by Nichole Hamilton.
This play might have been made into a TV movie of the week, back when they were a popular part of our schedule, issue oriented, characters not brilliantly drawn. All of these actors are capable of more incisive work, given material that supports it, and all have proven it previously at freeFall.
Artistic Director Eric Davis directs well, gets the best acting possible, and does a really fine job of keeping the shifting styles of the play focused. All of the technical aspects, costumes by Frank Chavez, set and lighting by Tom Hansen and hair design by Allison Davis, are extremely accurate.
I'm glad Eric Davis chose Perfect Arrangement for freeFall. It reminds us of how difficult life was before being LGBT merely caused friends and neighbors to shrug their shoulders with a "who cares" attitude.
Perfect Arrangement, through March 3, 2019, at freeFall Theatre, 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg FL. For ticket and performance information, visit www.freefalltheatre.com.