Ellen Geer, Willow Geer, Melora Marshall
by Diane Grant
I work in a box office. It’s my bread and butter job. The problem with it is that it prevents me from seeing as many plays as I would like to. I’m often taking tickets at one theater when the curtain is going up in theaters all over the city.
So, when I do get chance see a production, I want to see something wonderful.
And last Saturday, August the 17th at 4 pm, at Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga, I did. To begin with, being at Theatricum on a beautiful summer afternoon is a pleasure in itself. The grounds immediately charm and relax you (and you need to relax after driving through Topanga Canyon) and sitting on the stairs (bring a pillow) amongst the trees above the wide outdoor stage makes you feel a part of magic about to happen.
The play was The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Written in 1927, it’s about a family of successful actors, based loosely on the famous Barrymores, and it is an absolute delight, fun for everyone and still relevant, particularly to anyone involved in theater.
Here’s what the director, Susan Angelo, says about the play: “Actors who dedicate their life to the theater are a passionate, unique and rare breed. It is hard to explain to non-theater folks the dedication that compels many actors to sacrifice lifestyle, social life and even family, in pursuit of their dream….Their world may be erratic and egocentric, but only because they seek a deeper understanding of humanity, and through their work, experience a heightened sense of their own.”
What actor or playwright would not feel her heart lift when watching a comedy about the demanding, crazy, lasting joy of life upon the stage, particularly one given such an excellent production?
The Geer family, perhaps not that different from Cavendishes of the play, was well represented by Ellen and Willow Geer and Melora Marshall. All the actors, including Ernestine Phillips and Alan Blumenfeld were delightful.
I don’t know Susan Angelo, the director, but the program says that she has been with Theatricum for many years. What I do know is that she had a cast of eighteen moving across the stage, in and out of doors, up and down the stairs, and along corridors (while fencing); all delivering lines with grace, panache and precision. They kept up the farcical pace, without ever descending into camp or forgetting the humanity of the characters.
The Seedlings program at Theatricum, firstname.lastname@example.org, with our own Jennie Webb, who is Playwrights’ Development Director, and John Maidman, the Seedlings producer, is worth checking out, too. I had a play of mine, The Last Of The Daytons, read there a few years ago and it was a very positive and helpful experience.
In the meantime, if you are looking for fun, do go and see The Royal Family.