A buzz of anticipation was in the air as Boise Little Theater (BLT) filled up for the opening night of Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner by Pat Cook. If the play's name isn't enough to put people in a laughing mood, the appearance of three of Boise's strongest and funniest actresses, Sue Galligan, Shirley Lake and Diane Benedict, does the trick.
The play itself is the charming, silly, fluffy type of comedy that BLT does so well. Three aging sisters live together, dividing the household chores and arguing about everything. But time is beginning to take its toll, and the women's doctor is concerned about medications, heart problems and memory loss. Through a bit of trickery, he persuades the sisters to take in a nurse as a boarder. Enter the villain of the piece, the greedy son who wants to evict the three and make a bed and breakfast out of their lovely old home. Will he succeed? Will the dotty old dames be shipped off to dusty nursing homes to spend their golden years in lonely idleness?
Director Wendy Koeppl does her best with the script, but the tension potential has a peak akin to the suspense in an argument between Oscar and Big Bird. However, Koeppl has an excellent feel for the absurdity of the situation and the laughter takes off and never stops. With excellent pacing and clever staging, Koeppl shows skill in her second stint as a BLT director.
Galligan, who has been on almost every stage in Boise, from early Shakespeare Festival shows to the U of I Repertory Theatre, creates a feisty, sharp-tempered character with a tart sense of humor. Her celebration of Halloween takes your breath away and her facial expressions are vividly appropriate for her cranky personality. Galligan provides the perfect contrast to her sweet, vague sister, (Benedict), who cares more about the weather than events in her life. Benedict is expert at evoking a childlike, wistful woman who drifts along in her own little world and pouts prettily and fiercely when crossed.
Lake holds her own with these two comic virtuosos, and makes her character, Lydia Van Horn, a brisk and strong scene-stealer. Lake also demonstrates her ability to switch from raucous comedy to tugging at your heartstrings.
The show's trademark gag through the play is the way the sisters talk simultaneously, making an incomprehensible babble that is funnier each time they do it. If you concentrate, you can almost follow what one of them is saying, but it's more fun to sit back and just enjoy the full effect, and to watch the other characters' reactions.
Kevin Butler plays a relaxed, concerned type of doctor we would all love to have. He is such a constant visitor at the "House on the Corner," that I began to worry about the health of his practice. His drunk scene is hilarious and his verbal sparring with Lydia's son, drunk or sober, is a real kick that reaches heights of sarcasm and loathing.
Steve Martin offers a sensationally slimy performance as the son, Phillip Van Horn. He poses as a staid and stuffy businessman, seeking what is best for his mother and aunts and then lets us glimpse the money grubbing, self-seeking jerk he really is. Martin has developed a very funny double take that, combined with his comic flair in this role, makes him a delightful scumbag. He even received some good-natured booing during the curtain calls.
Jacob Koeppl is perfect as the traumatized grocery delivery boy, Blue. Blue's fear of the sisters' idiosyncrasies makes for the speediest deliveries in town, with Koeppl reflecting wild-eyed terror every time they speak to him. Stephanie Kammerer-Penney and Brian Scott play the nurse, Jean, and her sweetheart, Calvin, with jolly high spirits. Kammerer-Penney has lots of charm and vivacity, but I was never convinced she was really a nurse. Jo-Ann Jones, who plays Nurse Jean's mother, is another actress who knows the value of pauses and slow looks. She makes the most of her small but pivotal role and earns lots of laughs.
Those Crazy Ladies has some secrets and surprises—just enough to keep the show crackling while the "crazy like a fox" sisters strut their stuff. This show is the perfect antidote for those income tax blues.
Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner by Pat Cook, directed by Wendy Koeppl
Boise Little Theater, 200 E. Fort St.
8 p.m. April 14 to 16; 2 p.m. matinee April 18
$9, reservations and information at 342-5104 and www.boiselittletheater.org