In a conflict fierce enough to rival the war, a pair of 1940s starlets grapple for control of the presidential suite at the luxurious Palm Beach Royale. Egos flare, white roses fly, and heads are sure to roll in the raucous comedy, “Suite Surrender,” as performed with witty enthusiasm and bold choices at Oakton High School.
In a tribute to the classic farces of the 30s and 40s, Michael McKeever’s work utilizes all the textbook comedic situations: mistaken identities, double entendre and a charming twist ending. As two of Hollywood’s biggest divas are accidentally assigned to the same suite during their stay for a soldiers’ benefit, the hotel staff clambers to keep Claudia McFadden, a songstress with a reputation for throwing bellhops from her balcony, and Athena Sinclair, a fiery, sex-crazed starlet, from noticing each other’s presence. The comedy premiered in 2008, at the Caldwell Theater in Boca Raton, Fla. Despite never attaining a Broadway debut, the play has been performed throughout the United States, as well as in Europe.
The specificity of tech design and execution in this production were incredibly impressive, as crews worked seamlessly together to transport the audience to the 1942 Palm Beach Royale. The thoughtfully crafted period hairstyles and artfully applied makeup that adorned every actor would, in itself, have been impressive. Yet, Oakton’s crew took their skill even further as they created believable cuts, bruises, and burns on the battered hotel staff and guests throughout the production. The box set, gaudily decorated to portray the hotel’s presidential suite, was designed with an intelligent eye, as the many doors and furniture pieces were placed with care, allowing for freedom of movement and creating levels within the room.
Starring as the fearsome divas Claudia McFadden and Athena Sinclair, Christine Cox and Natalie Morales demonstrated skillful comedic timing and incredible commitment to the exaggerated silliness of their characters. Cox’s unabashed eccentricity and hilarious facial expressions were compounded by her bold physical choices, as she flew about the hotel suite, glaring disdainfully as she ranted at her terrified secretary Pippet (Shanelucas Ramsey) when he repeatedly failed to produce her demands of martinis and white roses. Morales’ commitment to her character’s shamelessly flirtatious nature created countless comedic moments, as she swooned over bellhops and pined for romance with her secretary, Murphy (Savannah Hemming).
Spencer Waters’ remarkable comedic timing drove the production, as he panicked over the plight of his hotel as the determined manager, Dunlap. His bold physical choices, sprawling across the piano in an attempt to hide photos of one star from the other, and his heightened, yet believable distress as the hotel was ravaged by raucous soldiers, illustrated his mastery of the comedic style of this farce.
The uproariously silly romance between Murphy and Francis (Raphael Ortiz), her long lost lover who claimed he was enlisting in the army, only to turn up at the Palm Beach Royale as a bellboy, had the audience in fits of laughter. Chemistry between the two blazed, creating hilarity through commitment to their romance, as Ortiz and Hemming swooned in fits of silliness after their passionate reunion. Hemming’s sharp distinction between these moments and her stubbornly rational scenes with Morales illustrated brilliant use of comic juxtaposition.
From comedic brilliance, to technical skill, the talent involved in this production was incredible. With a mastery of pacing and vibrant enthusiasm, this cast pulled off the so often abused genre of the farce at a level beyond that of most high school students, in Oakton’s “Suite Surrender.”