IF YOU GO
What: Two brothers try to survive the swinging '60s
When: 8 p.m. Wed. - Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. through Nov. 21
Where: 1055 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island
Information: Call 642-7270 or themarcoplayers.com
Something Else: The theater is located in the Marco Town Center Mall directly across from the Crazy Flamingo restaurant.
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
MARCO ISLAND — The Marco Players launched their season in grand fashion Wednesday night with a stylish production of Neil Simon's "Come Blow Your Horn" that could well serve as a clarion call for great theater on the island.
"Come Blow Your Horn," Simon's first play, offers up an autobiographical portrait of a young man who leaves home - and the chafe of overprotective parents - for life in his older brother's swinging 60s bachelor pad. Complications and predictable hilarity ensue. "Horn" ran for 677 performances on Broadway in 1961-62. Simon's first big hit, "Barefoot in the Park," with similar themes about responsibility intruding on a carefree lifestyle, would follow two years later.
The show sets up a continual clash between responsibility and the pursuit of leisure. Girlfriends want to become wives, parents want grandchildren, sons want their freedom and no one seems to recognize that happiness might be just on the other side of the door. One of director Patricia Berry's most effective tricks involves a continual "voila" moment whenever the apartment door opens.
Newcomer Craig Wilkinson (Buddy) joins Marco Players regular Joseph Lang (Alan) as the brothers at the center of this comedic souffle. Lang captures playboy Alan with dashing charm; his savoir faire oozes off the stage - particularly during act one when he's juggling multiple ladies, a pesky kid brother and an angry client on the phone. Fresh-faced Wilkinson brings a wide-eyed innocence to the role - "If I get a handshake from a girl I figure I had a good night" - as well as not over-playing Buddy's nervous tics.
Norma Griffin comes close to stealing the first act as the boys' stereotypical fussy mother - fixated on food, family and feather-dusters. A wordless scene where Griffin tries to get up off a beanbag chair draws spontaneous laughter - as does the sequence where the character gets more and more frustrated at the pace of outlandish phone messages from strange people for her bachelor sons.
Berry uses former professional actor Michael Hennessey well. Hennessey lifts every scene he's in as the demanding, take-no-prisoners Mr. Baker, the boys' father. His demented New York honk and bristling walrus mustache make the character an easy villain - and Simon's witty bon mots that fly from his mouth directed at dilettante sons keep the crowd in stitches.
Kat Ebaugh's airheaded actress lights up the stage in her few scenes, but Kristin Babst's earnest Connie seems miscast as Alan's level-headed lover.
Lacking the option for big and spacious in their matchbox-sized space - the Marco Players go elegant to recreate the Baker's bachelor paradise. The set seizes the spirit of the Sixties with mod furniture, rich golden walls, white trim, one striped accent wall and a subtle starburst theme. Accessories - including a pair of elegant porcelain elephants and some eccentric ceramic cats - give a whiff of personality without drifting into kooky.
Angela Hinton's costumes amuse - although there are misfires. Skin-tight ski togs and later an acidic yellow frock for Ebaugh's dim bimbo Peggy match the playful mood of the period. A variety of trim scarves, sweaters, jackets and overcoats that look like they walked out of a Burberry advertisement keep the men in style. I'm not fond of the overabundance of leopard on the stage at times - especially on Griffin's matron, whom I doubt would have succumbed to hippie fashion trends.
Light, carefree and filled with scenes of anxious sons tugging away from the taut apron strings of parents, "Come Blow Your Horn" makes some beautiful music.
I cut the apron strings with a chainsaw. E-mail me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.