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Monday, June 18, 2012

Just What you Needed: "One Slight Hitch" at ACT — a review

Except for the remembered joys of motherhood, I’ve never had a good reason to revisit the 1980s, but I did so last Thursday in Seattle, at ACT — A Contemporary Theatre. There for opening night of a play called “One Slight Hitch," a comedy by Lewis Black set in 1981, I probably had more fun than I had in the entire actual decade.  
Katherine Grant-Suttie, Marianne Owen, Kirsten Potter, Kimberley Sustad, and R. Hamilton Wright in back.
Photo: Chris Bannion

The play uses only one set, the interior of the well-appointed home of Doc and Delia Coleman in suburban Cincinnati. It represents everything safe, sane, and insipid about the ‘80s, right down to the floral sofa pillows that perfectly match the floral wallpaper that perfectly matches the floral arrangement on a table. But in that conservative and affluent setting, complete and hilarious chaos threatens the wedding day of one of the couple’s three daughters when the clueless former lover of the bride-to-be shows up for an unannounced visit.

Although the entire cast did an outstanding job, in my opinion the parents, Doc (yes, he’s a doctor) and Delia, stole the show. The role of Doc, played by R. Hamilton Wright, gave this versatile and most amazingly talented actor a chance to show his funny side. He embellished the script with subtleties of voice, expression, and physical comedy that felt spontaneous and oh so fun. I had been impressed by his acting in the serious role of dental mechanic Harry Wilson in “The Pitmen Painters” and just became an even more ardent fan.
Equally delightful and impressive was Marianne Owen as Delia. Make that Delia the Drama Queen. What a talent! I'll be watching for her name. Owen nailed this character perfectly. She was the high-minded hostess invested in pulling off the perfect wedding one minute and the witty, sharp-tongued, Valium-popping, exasperated wife and mother in a bathrobe and curlers the next. But she spoke seriously at one point in the second act and imbued the scene with depth and poignancy as she reminded us of the differences in generations.

Kimberley Sustad, Katherine Grant-Suttie, Kirsten Potter
Photo: Chris Bennion
Kimberly Sustad as Courtney Coleman, the bride-to-be, also acted her role with flair. In this comedy with a serious side—about recognizing our real wants and needs versus the ones we pretend to have for the sake of convention or approval—she walks the fine line between liberated female writer and about-to-be cookie cutter 1980s wife and never loses her balance. Even her quintessential ruffled and romantic ‘80s wedding dress, so obviously not representative of her real taste, spoke volumes.
The heavy drinking, hilarious, and sexually liberated sister Melanie Coleman, played by Kirsten Potter, added more than her share of laughs to this comedy. Potter delivered sidesplitting one-liners in quick succession and, like Wright, made the most of her lines with the small nuances that show her to be a true pro. In spite of her vices, I loved her most of all.
Katherine Grant-Suttie, an adult of at least average height, played the part of a pigtailed, Walkman-wearing, young teenaged girl, not even old enough to drive. But she met the challenge well and created a funny and charming character. I admire the fine job she did, even though this casting choice required my imagination to work a little.
Shawn Telford and Kimberley Sustad
Photo: Chris Bennion
The two remaining characters were Courtney’s ex-lover and fellow writer, Ryan, played by Shawn Telford, and her fiancé, Harper, played by John Ulman. As elsewhere in this masterful script, we meet two characters who each have another side and surprise us when they turn out to be more complex than our first impression would suggest. Telford could get the laughs with nothing more than a move or look and Ulman slipped skillfully between his nauseatingly suave persona and the more believable fellow later revealed.
The only confusing part came when these two would-be, should-be rivals ended up sitting so close together on the sofa I wondered if the plot was about to head off in a whole new direction. But it didn’t, and I’m not sure what that action was meant to imply.
This play resolved all the confusion and craziness with a sweet and satisfying ending. My companion, whom I have never seen laugh so hard, exclaimed, “That was just what I needed!” If life seems way too serious, do yourself a favor and go see “One Slight Hitch.” I'll make it easy. You can order your tickets right here.

It might be a farce, but it hits close enough to the truth of family life, relationships, and the ‘80s themselves, to make you grateful to be an outsider who could laugh at someone else’s near disaster of a day. 

Congratulations to playwright Lewis Black and everyone else involved.
Playwright Lewis Black with Cast members Marianne Owen and Kimberley Sustad
Photo: LaRae Lobdell

Copyright 2012 Candace J. Brown

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