STAGE REVIEW Plot makes for mayhem in 'Black Comedy'

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Peter Shaffer's farce, "Black Comedy," opened Friday evening to a full audience at the New Castle Playhouse Annex Theatre.
An abundance of pratfalls, comedic timing and double-entendres filled the stage for this farce as the characters dodged about in amusing confusion and slapstick buffoonery.
Plot: Our "hero," as it were, is the young (read that, starving) artist Brindsley Miller. It is 1965, and it is London, and Miller has snagged the famous art connoisseur, George Bamberger, to visit his apartment to see his sculptures. Also on his guest list are his fianc & eacute;e, Carol Melkett, and her pompous military father, Colonel Melkett.
As circumstances would have it, some uninvited guests also appear, and the ensuing mayhem is hilarious. Miller, at the behest of Carol, has "borrowed" some fine antique furniture and pieces from his out-of-town neighbor, Harold Gorringe, to dress up his dreary apartment to impress both her father and Bamberger.
Of course we all know what will happen. Gorringe will arrive home early to discover his things missing. Well, yes, but there's a twist: Adding to the fray is an untimely power failure that plunges the entire building into darkness.
Another neighbor, the frantic Miss Furnival, shows up on Miller's doorstep to wait for the lights to come back on, and, of course, Gorringe arrives at Miller's door, causing Miller to go through hilarious antics in trying to switch the furnishings back under the cover of the darkness.
Complicating matters is the sudden reappearance of Miller's former girlfriend, Clea, as well as a case of mistaken identity when the electricity repairman, Schuppanzigh, arrives. The resulting chaos makes for a delightful evening of comedy.
Cast: Brian Gittis as Miller was nonstop energy, both physically and verbally, as he went through his various machinations to impress Carol's father and hide the purloined furniture from his neighbor.
Maria Ackley was a delightful comedic presence as the teetotaling Miss Furnival, who, in the darkness, gets her hands on the wrong kind of beverage, and Jessica Palko was excellent as the whiny fianc & eacute;e Carol, incessantly ending her phrases with her character's trademark "poo."
The blustery, no nonsense Colonel Melkett was well-played by Michael Burkintas, although he looks a tad young to be Carol's father, and an outstanding performance was given by Ed Krafft as Gorringe.
Miller's erstwhile love interest, Clea, was superbly played by Alissa Dialessandro, and rounding out the cast in fine form were Ashten Beach as Schuppanzigh, the electrician, and Josef Long as Bamberger.
The excellent set as well as costuming also helped re-create the era of the mid-'60s quite well.
Steve Johnston serves as director of this production, having assembled a talented ensemble that works well together onstage.

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