By Mike Howie
When the players at the Marathon Community Theatre say they’re putting on a farce, they aren’t kidding.
Wait. That’s exactly what they’re doing.
“Leading Ladies,” showing through Dec. 8, is a romp from start to finish. Along the way, true identities are concealed and true love blossoms. The audience is in on some of it from the start, but there are plenty of surprises — and laughs — along the way.
Leo Clark and Jack Gable, two road-weary Shakespearean actors, are booed off the stage at a Moose lodge in rural Pennsylvania. Down to their last dollar, they stumble on a newspaper story about a rich woman trying to find two long-lost relatives, Max and Steve, so they can share in the inheritance that will come when she dies, which could be any day now. They can impersonate Max and Steve, right? Turns out Max is Maxine and Steve is Stephanie. Among the costumes from their “Scenes from Shakespeare” traveling show are a few dresses, so they decide — well, Leo decides and Jack goes along — to cross-dress themselves into a fortune.
They encounter a household where everyone has issues:
• A preacher (Brian Witte as Rev. Duncan Woole) so aloof he won’t even look at his fiancee (Abby Haddock as Meg) when he’s talking to her – his gaze is fixed in the distance, as though he is always in the pulpit. Meg doesn’t see him for what he is – angling to start and run a “foundation” from a comfortable office, all paid for by her inheritance, which will be cut by two-thirds if the “nieces” successfully stake their claim.
• A dying woman (Judy Manning as Florence) who isn’t dying at all. She’s completely aware, and not at all shy about calling out her erroneous prognosis, which is provided by Doc Myers (Jim Kelly), who is probably not a member of the American Medical Association, judging by his approach to medicine.
• A roller-skating nerd (Courtney Coburn) with a nice vocabulary, if you know what I mean. And the doctor’s son (Alex Rickert), who lusts after her.
The show often belongs to Dale Coburn as Jack, though you could be forgiven if you think you’re watching Jack Black’s physical comedy. From an early bit of business in which he buries his face — again and again —in the cleavage of the roller-skating nerd, to a hysterical scene in which he fights off the determined, but mistaken, advances of Kelly as the doctor, Coburn is an eye magnet. (He also directed the show, after the original director had to withdraw.)
Right there with him are John Schaefer as Jack’s acting partner Leo, who brings a malleable face and his own physical abilities, and Abby Haddock as Meg, the star-struck innocentwhose character must evolve more than anyone else on stage— a challenge Haddock meets all evening.
The comic timing is on point throughout, from a laugh-out-loud Shakespearean death scene at the Moose lodge to the stunning entrance of “Max” and “Steve,” to a hilarious dance interlude that features… well, you’ll see.
The set is creatively arranged, making the most of the stage, allowing for multiple entrances and exits. Scene changes are quick and quiet.
The show lasts just under two hours, including an intermission.
When you leave, you’ll be smiling.
Marathon Community Theatre
8 p.m. Nov. 29-30, Dec. 1, Dec. 6-8
3 p.m. Dec. 2