Whole Lotta Laughing Going On

newport playhouseNewport Playhouse prides themselves on being a family-run business where they treat their audience like family. From the moment you walk into the Playhouse you are instantly put into a good mood.

First, there’s the dinner. It’s always good, and I went on surf and turf night. The baked shrimp was delicious! The chowder could have been entered in Chowder Fest it was so tasty. However, I noticed something different this time: the seating in the dining room. The majority of the tables are two-tops very close to one another, and you end up sitting very close to your neighbors. At first I panicked. After all, as parents we basically get out twice a year; this was our date night and my husband is one of those guys who doesn’t like sitting right on top of another table. My fears were pushed aside within two minutes while our dining neighbors all made introductions. (In case you’re wondering, Richard and his lovely wife were celebrating Richard’s birthday, and Alan and Katarina were celebrating their anniversary.) Within moments you find yourself laughing with people you have never met before. And honestly, isn’t laughing in a room full of strangers the goal of a comedy? We were already having a fantastic time, and we hadn’t even taken a bite yet! Kudos to Newport Playhouse for keeping a tradition like this going.

Now onto the show! A Whole Lotta CHEATIN’ Goin’ On is the first of the Texan trilogy by Del Shores. It takes place in a small town, Lowake, where everyone knows everyone’s business. The main action takes place in Sid’s bar, Bluebells, but there also is action in the salon and local seedy motel. Fred Davison does a great job with the limited space, turning one stage into three distinct locations.

The show opens with Sid, who was also our maître‘d for dinner, played by W. Richard Johnson, breaking down the fourth wall and addressing us directly. At times he stretches his improv skills by going off script a bit to answer the audience. Using his charm and his finesse on the guitar, Johnson does a fantastic job getting you right in the mood to watch what will take place in his bar. The main problem with this script is that Sid doesn’t have enough to do.  Honestly if the Del Shores knew that one day W. Richard Johnson would be in this role, Sid would never leave the stage. He was fantastic.

Of course there were other notable performances in the cast. The women in the show knock it out of the park in this one! All three women in this show are extremely strong actresses. Although as a female playwright, there were choices in the script I didn’t agree with (due to my own personal bias), the three women in the show didn’t miss a beat. Alison King Anthony is always a pleasure to see on stage, Katherine Coolidge played the unsuspecting girlfriend with truth, and Sarah Pierce took a very physical role and made it look easy.

Other crowd favorites of course were Mario Sasso as Bo Bob the town mailman, and Michael Gregory as the town mechanic (and the source of half the cheating). Sasso did a lovely job as he didn’t take the easy route and turn his character into a caricature. Gregory was a hoot as the town’s dim-witted pig. During one scene in particular that takes place in the motel, he brought the house down.

When the show is over, you don’t go home yet! If you ordered ahead, your drink is waiting for you back in the dining room for the cabaret, which is a nice touch. The after show cabaret was everything it should be — silly with great music and even a tribute to our armed forces.

With all the vitriol in society today, it’s just nice to sit down, relax and let someone else do the cooking. It’s a night of light-hearted fun, and we could all use that today.

This was the second time this summer I heard an announcement asking people not to text during the show. (The first being Epic’s Bedroom Plays for obvious reasons.) It makes me a little sad that theaters feel the need to do this. After all, you’re out, you’ve spent good money to be entertained; can’t you just be in the moment? So unplug for a few hours with The Newport Playhouse.

A Whole Lotta CHEATIN’ Goin’ On runs until August 28. Tickets are available online at newportplayhouse.com, or by calling 401-848-PLAY (7529).

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