“Directed by Sarah May.” Those words alone tell you the production you are about to see is going to be great. Actors turn out in droves to audition when she is directing, and her meticulous method of making the set look as authentic as possible is part of the artistic charm that exudes in her productions. Well, May has done it again with a terrific production of “Life With Father” at Weathervane Playhouse. Debuting on Broadway in 1939, it holds the distinction of being the longest running non-musical play in Broadway history. May does the production justice, transforming all of us back to a time when family entertainment was indeed just that -- laughter coming from actual events and conversations that we all have experienced in our own family dynamics. The play was dramatized by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, based on the stories by Clarence Day. These stories were first run in The New Yorker magazine. It tells the true story of Clarence Day, a stockbroker who wants to be master of his house, but finds his wife and his children ignoring him until they start making demands for him to change his own life -- the major change being his wife’s insistence that Clarence be baptized to avoid going to Hell. There are other family dynamics as well that seem to keep everyone on their toes. May even stays with the original story and all the boys in the household are redheads. That is an eye for detail.
Jim Fippin as Father, Clarence Day, Sr., is a bombastic blast. So set in his ways, Fippin does a great job at making this pompous father lovable and exasperating at the same time. He creates a textured father with a good heart but an overbearing way of expression. Tari Lyn Bergoine as mother Vinnie Day is spectacular. She owns this character and this time period in a beautifully nuanced performance with deft comedic choices. Watching Mother manipulate Father is a joy to behold.
The kids are terrific. You really feel that they are part of an actual family, with each inhabiting their character with resilient charm and presence. Clarence Day, Jr. is played with great effect by Eric Lucas. As the older child, he does a great job conveying the yearning of trying to become an adult with financial independence, and handling the ups and downs of a first love. Will Price is a hoot as John Day. Price has a great playful charm that he uses with great skill throughout the production. As a salesman, he has some great comic moments. The Desberg brothers, Owen and Spencer, are scene stealers as Whitney and Harlan Day, handling the roles with great focus and cuteness, and generating plenty of smiles along the way, red heads and all.
Cousin Cora is colorfully played by Jenny Barrett, bringing great charm and bubbliness to the role. You are happy to see her when she visits. As her daughter, Mary Skinner, Erin Moore brings an endearing quality that makes it easy to see why Day, Jr. would fall head over heels for her. Reverend Dr. Lloyd (Richard Worswick) is very fun. Under the character antics supplied by Worswick, the Reverend is a pleasure to watch as he looks for the right moment to encourage the baptism of the ages. Dr. Humphreys (Steve Boardman) reminds me of the Sean Connery of the medical profession -- great job, along with his back up physician, Dr. Somers (John Grafton).
The maids are kept busy in the show. Margaret (April Deming) is a scream to watch as she tries to make everything perfect and manage the staff. Watching her get a bit rattled is delightful. Annie (Kay Caprez), Delia (Sasha Desberg), Nora (Madelyn E. Francis), and Maggie (Jennifer Desberg) do double duty during the show, not only playing their parts and trying to serve the meals without setting the alarm off inside Mr. Day, Sr., but also being involved in the scene changes, making them interesting to watch. There is also an easel to the side that the maids switch with each scene, following the play’s timeline like we were watching in an old silent movie theatre.
The creative team does a tremendous job: Stage Manager Scott Crim calls a terrific show. Sound Designer Michelle Conner does a great job at blending the spoken word with the fabulous song choices. Properties Designer Jennifer Maxson Draher must have worked overtime on a marvelous set with incredible detail. Costume Designer Jasen J. Smith knocked it out the park with his designs. The family looked amazing, and the woman to die for. But leading the charge were the designs for the Mother. Bravo. Scenic/Lighting Designer Alan Scott Ferrall continues his streak of incredible professional work. The set is incredibly impressive and lit to highlight the action with a loving embrace.
This is what family theatre is all about. Weathervane kicks some creative butt with this production.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 27 - April 13
$5-$21 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
1301 Weathervane Lane
Akron, Ohio 44313