The Good Theater’s creative team has a talent for transforming the stage at its intimate, 106-seat theater into a memorable array of locales. The theater has one-upped itself for “Regrets Only,” crafting an opulent Manhattan apartment set that strategically wraps around the stage, hugging every nook and cranny.
A painted “marble” floor and matching columns luxuriously adorn the set, with a stunning 6- by 7-foot painting of Central Park by scenic artist Cheryl Dolan hanging like an over-sized window to the right of the stage. Topping off the grandeur is an eye-catching collection of furniture and art worth $25,000, all graciously on loan from area artists and artisans.
The upscale set serves as a gorgeous backdrop for a play by Paul Rudnick that’s equally rich in laughs. From the moment director Brian P. Allen delivered his pre-show welcome last Thursday, there was little doubt that the audience would be treated to an evening of bellyaching laughter. “No straight people were harmed in the creation of this play,” joked Allen. And the laughs just increased exponentially from there.
“Regrets Only” revolves around the lives of the socially elite McCullough family and their famous fashion designer friend, Hank Hadley, played by the wonderfully dry-witted Paul Haley. Hank recently lost his partner of 38 years to cancer. When lawyers Jack McCullough, played by Paul Drinan, and his daughter Spencer, played by Meredith Lamothe, agree to help the President of the United States write an amendment defining marriage, Hank takes offense. High jinks hilarity ensues that holds Spencer’s own wedding “hostage” and proves to be an eye-opening experience for all.
As Hank says, “What would the world be like without gay people? What would happen if we decided to take the day off?”
The production delivers an arsenal of wit, with zinger, after zinger flying through the air in rapid fire. It’s both incredibly funny and disarmingly poignant, with the witticisms providing social satire on such hotbed issues as social privilege and gay marriage.
“Privileged, American women with great hair can be all that they can be,” Spencer amusingly announced to her family. Laughter shook the theater when Jack’s mother-in-law (Marietta Claypoole), played by Suzanne Rankin, ridiculously declared that she knows “gay people are not ready for marriage” because she “was married to five of them.”
Good Theater has cast an amazing group of actors, who’d already found their groove last Thursday, even though it was only the second performance. Haley, Drinan and Laura Houck, as Jack’s wife Tibby, play off of each other with ease. The three performed together in last year’s production of “Becky’s New Car,” affording them a natural onstage rapport and sense of timing.
Lamothe fits the character stereotype of Spencer perfectly. She’s a delight throughout, but particularly shines in the opening scene of Act Two, delivering an epic character meltdown.
Amy Roche and Rankin may have more minor character roles, but both are scene-stealers. Roche is a comic genius as the maid, Myra Kesselman, dropping comic bomb, after comic bomb, hitting her mark without fail. It’s a revolving door of comedy as her character drifts in and out of scenes, changing her accent, role-playing to alleviate boredom and delivering priceless one-liners.
Rankin doesn’t appear until Act Two, but she’s unforgettable once she does. Her initial costume and recap of her character’s day are so outrageously fun that they defy spoiler description.
Nothing is sacred in this play.
Allen scheduled “Regrets Only” as an uplifting winter break. With a lush set, vibrant costumes, well-chosen cast, witty script and sneak-attack social conscience, the play is indeed a hilarious weapon to fight the winter doldrums.
WHERE: The St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St, Portland
DATE REVIEWED: Jan. 29; runs through Feb. 27
TICKETS: $20 to $28
CONTACT: 207-885-5883, www.goodtheater.com