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STAGE REVIEW A feud is 'Waiting in the Wings'



Published: Sun, May 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The long-standing rivalry comes to a head with interesting results.

By GARRY L. CLARK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A 30-year feud between two actresses came to a head Friday evening during the opening performance of Noel Coward's "Waiting in the Wings" at the New Castle Playhouse.

No, it wasn't a real-life feud, but it could have been since, as it is said, "Art imitates life."

The long-standing feud reached its zenith at "The Wings," a charitable retirement home for former actresses in the Thames Valley in England.

The setting was 1961, and the home, while pleasant enough, was populated by nine older women whose time before the footlights had long since past and were now living out their last days in the home run by charitable contributions from other thespians.

The feud was between May Davenport and a newcomer to the establishment, Lotta Bainbridge. May is unforgiving, while Lotta declares she has nothing to seek forgiveness for.

The other ladies vacillate between steering clear of the fray and entering into it, some of them with relish.

Cast: Ann Peay was in top form as Lotta, carrying herself with an air of dignity in spite of her situation, and beautifully underplaying her character's subtle nuances.

Grace Bickert was suitably belligerent and uncompromising as the offended May Davenport, choosing to suffer her wounds by giving Lotta the silent treatment, much to the consternation of the others.

A terrific performance was given by Karen Kern as Deirdre O'Malley, who, at her age, doesn't care who she offends anymore and pretty much tells it like it is -- or at least as she sees it.

She is a no-nonsense Irish woman, and the only one in the group with the guts to stand up to anyone, but she also constantly reminds them that the time is near for "the Lord to take me into his bosom."

Giving a hilarious turn as Sarita Myrtle was Amy H. Warner. Her comedic timing as the completely daft Sarita was impeccable, as was her wide-eyed innocent mugging at all the chaos she unwittingly produced.

Rounding out the cast of residents were Tina Barretta Cole as Cora Clarke, Karen Cifra as Bonita Belgrave, Kathy Leihgaber as Maudie Melrose, Vonnie-Kaye Brough as Almina Clare, and Phyliss Ango as Estelle. All were suitable to their roles, and of special note was a wonderful rendition by Ms. Cifra of "It Had to Be You."

Excellent portrayals of visitors to the home were given by Labe Charmatz as Osgood Meeker, Linda Proudfoot as Dora and Victoria Moore Zeiger as Zelda Fenwick.

Staffing the home in their performances were Susan L. Osborne as Sylvia Archibald, Steve Johnston as Perry Lascoe and Tracy A. Henderson as Doreen.

Josef Long has done an outstanding job in directing his final production at NCP, giving the characters warmth as well as depth and humor.

"Wings" provides an amusing evening of entertainment without ever needing to stoop to the bathroom-style humor so prevalent today. It deserves a much larger audience than Friday's opening provided.




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