After waking up from a night of drunken debauchery, Dr. Petypon spins a web of lies to keep his unsuspecting wife and uncle from discovering the notorious dancer found in his bed the next morning. A delightful romp, The Lady from Maxim’s showcases a slew of talented performers and pokes fun at everything from provincial life to the medical profession on the West Springfield High School stage.
Born in France to a well-known Parisian writer, Georges Feydeau wrote La Dame de chez Maxim in 1899. His first significant international success, the play was translated by Gene Feist and re-titled The Lady from Maxim’s. Mr. Feydeau is known for his immaculate theatrical structure and a form of writing Richard Hayes calls the “mathematics of theater.” A whimsical farce, the plot follows the events following a doctor who wakes up to a hangover and a lady he brought home from Maxim’s the previous night. The climax unfolds when everyone is invited to the uncle’s castle and a wedding reveals false identities and unexpected coincidences.
Leading the show through fluid physicality and flirtatious charisma, Catherine Ariale as the Shrimp accentuates her gestures and movements to bring out her character’s personality. As the flustered doctor trapped in a fake marriage, Forrest Browne as Dr. Lucien Petypon also magnifies his physicality through amplified facial expressions and voice inflections to pull of his character’s role in the farce. As Gabrielle Petypon, a warmhearted wife unsettled by the voices of ghosts and spirits, Ellen Abood provides a standout comedic performance through grandiose gestures, striking energy, and complete commitment to character. Joshua Elliott as the General Petypon du Grelé grasps the delivery of his lines with ease and successfully showcases his competence with comedic timing, keeping the audience chuckling throughout his scenes.
Despite a limited amount of stage time, Mallory Astrow as Madame Sauvarel, a guest at the General’s wedding, fantastically takes advantage of her lines to reinforce the cast’s skill with comedic timing. Astrow takes on exaggerated physicality and facial expressions to fully deliver her lines with a farcical approach. Just as proficient with timing and twice as sassy, Nyc Nguyen as Émile masters the art of the scowl as he sends the audience chortling at his insolent glares toward the General’s guests. The Madames at the wedding party work well as an ensemble, feeding off of each other’s energy and showing complete dedication to their roles.
In terms of technicality, the crew paid particularly meticulous attention to detail in their sets and lighting. A typical Feydeau farce is usually set in an elegant belle époque Paris residence, with bedrooms and salons and doors as the essential parts of the tightly choreographed action. For this production, the crew chooses an excellent color palette to create beautiful visual tableaus of the living room and the lounge in the castle. The lighting crew rapidly responds to cues and sound crew provides subtle yet effective sound effects that add to the show’s atmosphere. The costumes are period appropriate and individualized for each character, a difficult feat to accomplish with a large cast. Although the make-up and hair could be executed a little more cleanly, the designs are well researched and consistently period appropriate.
The overall high energy of the production at West Springfield High School excellently keeps the slapstick on point and the audience in stitches. Through grandiose physicality, visually pleasing technological aspects, and fantastic comedic timing, the cast and crew deliver an excellent rendition of Feydeau’s riotous farce.