Gay Drawing Room Comedy: a Mediocre Hoot
"Regrets Only" at Cape Playhouse draws the laughs
By Libby Hughes, Cape Cod Today Theatre Critic
The opening night audience at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis was ready to laugh. The laughter came in crashing waves after clever and slick lines from "Regrets Only." But was it warranted? The play is a 21st century attempt at outwitting Noel Coward's 20th century style. The show makes its first debut outside the theatrical confines of the Great White Way in this famous of all summer theatres on Cape Cod.
Flawed but funny play
There is no doubt that contemporary playwright Paul Rudnick is multi-talented in all sorts of mediums, including stage, screen, and magazine/newspaper writing. He is a glitzy and gabby writer and has won many awards. His latest creation is this drawing room comedy, "Regrets Only," that had its first performances at the Manhattan Theatre Club in NYC in 2006.
On the right are Harry Groener, Dee Hoty and Joel Higgins. Photos by Kathleen A. Fahle
For this reviewer, the play is flawed and uneven with too many ups and downs. Although clever on the gay issues, it verges on being preachy. Some cutting and tightening might help it. The characters are two-dimensional despite many uproarious moments. However, the audience didn't seem to care and only a few departed at intermission.
Gay plot and issues
The plot centers around a famous, gay fashion designer who has lost his longtime partner, a respected surgeon. He seeks solace in the household of a prominent heterosexual couple. The husband is a lawyer and the wife, a socialite, and his best friend. The couple's daughter becomes engaged and the focus is on her upcoming wedding. The mother is a wimp and the father caught in a bind when the President asks him to help write a constitutional amendment, regarding gay marriage. The second act has some surprises not to be revealed in this review.
Maid and mother-in-law steal the show
Rudnick has written the best parts for the maid and the mother-in-law. They absolutely steal the showRudnick has written the best parts for the maid and the mother-in-law. They absolutely steal the show. Kathel Carlson's lively portrayal of Myra Kesselman, the maid, is outrageously funny in her many silly hats and accents. At times, though, she was too broad and shrill. Nevertheless, she was the salvation to the otherwise bland characters. Dawn Didawick was equally wacky and humorous as the dimwitted mother-in-law, Marietta Claypoole. They were both delicious characters. Costume designer Gail Baldoni gave them marvelous outfits to accentuate the humor-even a garbage bag dress for the mother-in-law-and then a more elegant outfit for the grandmother of the bride.
Groener wins kudos
Dee Hoty did the best she could with the wimpy character of the mother who is a sort of middle-aged Paris HiltonOne of the best performances came from seasoned actor Harry Groener in the role of the gay fashion designer (Hank Hadley). He was understated, believable, and comfortable on stage. Joel Higgins as the rich lawyer (Jack McCullough) and father of the bride was also a credible character. Higgins and Groener have a well-crafter piece of choreography to the "Blue Danube Waltz." By the way, Groener and Dawn Didawick are husband and wife in real life.
Two-dimensional female roles
Dee Hoty did the best she could with the wimpy character of the mother (Tibby McCullough), who is a sort of middle-aged Paris Hilton--nothing to rave about and not the actress's fault. Eden Riegel was also at the mercy of a stereotypical ingenue. For a young woman who was supposed to be a lawyer, the writing made her look like an airhead. Again, it wasn't her fault.
Christopher Chambers has some interesting pieces of lighting throughout the show.
For a mindless piece of summer stock humor, "Regrets Only" might fill the bill.