CTC’s Summer Comedy Black Comedy Shines

blackIt is far from a chore to find yourself in Wakefield on a Saturday night. Great restaurants, beautiful sights and, of course, Contemporary Theater Company. This company of homegrown talent produces a comedy every summer, and this summer’s choice is Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy.  

The first thing you notice is, of course, Christopher J. Simpson’s set, which makes the most out of the intimate setting. The set is a living room with an upstairs bedroom, which I have to point out, uses the natural black wall of the theater to its advantage. Simpson’s small touches scream to the audience that the action will be taking place in a time before cell phones. The dated furniture, the experimental paintings and modern sculpture on stage (which is for sale) all lend themselves as another character.

Brindsley Miller has the most important night of his life. A millionaire is coming to see his work, and he is going to meet his fiancé’s father. Of course, seeing that this is a farce, nothing goes as planned. Here’s the thing about Black Comedy: It is a show that uses reverse lighting. When the show opens, the stage is dark. A few moments into the action the actors blow a fuse, and the lights come up. It is clever. When the lights come up, the actors have to act as if they are in the dark. The entire cast does this so superbly, you actually do forget that clearly they’re not actually in the dark. It’s a true representation of the suspension of disbelief, and it wouldn’t be possible without the finely tuned work of this cast.

As you are plunged into darkness, you immediately notice the rich tones of Sami Avigdor’s voice. Avigdor plays Brindsley, the artist who is having a very bad night. His performance was incredible. He has to only convince the audience that he can’t see, which he does to a T, but has some moments of physical comedy that will have you holding your sides from laughter. He is so captivating onstage that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Joining Avigdor onstage is Steph Rodger, who plays his “fiancé-poo” Carol Melkett. Carol can be dismissed as a flighty character, but Rodger offers the part some depth and soul.

As is the case with these types of comedies, we meet many characters who are loosely related, yet thrown into a zany situation. The first of such characters we meet is one of the neighbors, Miss Furnival, played by Valerie Tarantino. The longer Tarantino is on stage, the funnier she becomes.  And as much as I try not to compare performers, it must be said that Tarantino channels her inner Carol Burnett.

Terry Simpson enters the chaos as the stern, straight-laced military man, and Brindsley’s future father-in-law. His portrayal of Colonel Melkett is spot-on as he disapproves of everything going on, which just makes lines like “a God damn hippie bean bag” all the funnier. Christopher Verlenger, a newcomer to the CTC stage, plays neighbor Harold Gorringe, and will surely be seen on the CTC stage in the future! This show marks Amelia Giles’ 26th production with CTC, this time playing Clea, Brindsley’s ex. It is always a treat to see this talented actress on stage. Two additional actors round out this cast, although they are not onstage very long: Winfied Swanson as Georg Bamberger, and Rico Lanni as Schippanzigh. Lanni is proof that it really doesn’t matter how large or small a written part is, it is the actor who makes the difference.

At the helm of this zany cast of characters is CTC’s artistic director, Christopher J. Simpson. Simpson took an older script, which can sound dated and stuffy, and breathed new life into it. CTC has put together an enjoyable night of theater, and before the summer passes you by, make sure you head down for a good laugh!

Black Comedy is playing at Contemporary Theater Company August 1-15.  For tickets, call 401-218- 0282 or order online at contemporarytheatrecompany.com

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