Play: “Kind Sir”
Group: Act, Inc.
Venue: Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, Big Bend south of Wydown
Dates: June 17, 18, 19
Tickets: $20; contact 314-725-9108 or www.actinc.biz
Story: Noted actress Jane Kimball is much in demand for productions on Broadway, because her name atop the marquee will help guarantee box office success. She’s less fortunate in love, however, to the consternation of her meddling older sister Margaret. So, when Margaret’s husband Alfred arrives at Jane’s apartment accompanied by the guest speaker at an important banquet for the federal government, and the speaker happens to be an attractive gentleman, Margaret’s penchant for matchmaking goes into high gear.
Jane is promptly invited along to the proceeding, which is fine by her as she also finds Phillip Clair, a wealthy and retired banker, to be charming and fascinating. Her initial attraction is dimmed when he quickly confesses to being married, albeit long separated from his wife but unable to divorce her. So, Jane and Phillip begin a courtship that both excites and frustrates the actress, further complicated by Phillip’s possible transfer to London for a federal post. The situation seems destined to make Jane unhappy, but at least it couldn’t get worse. Or could it?
Highlights: Act, Inc.’s program notes state that “There are only three theatre companies in America dedicated to reviving lost gems of theatre history. ACT INC is by far the oldest.” Each summer, the nifty ensemble presents two works, usually obscure but intriguing, that are performed in repertory. In June, this delightful three-act comedy by Norman Krasna is being presented in tandem with “The Royal Family,” written by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber.
Less familiar than its counterpart, 1953’s “Kind Sir” probably registers with more people for the 1958 movie version, “Indiscreet,” which starred Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Having thoroughly enjoyed this breezy romp in the spirited rendition directed by Jane Sullivan, I look forward to catching the film as soon as it shows up next on TCM’s cable network schedule.
Other Info: Krasna’s deft script and Sullivan’s crisp direction of her entertaining sextet of players results in an enchanting presentation that delivers its three acts in two brisk hours sandwiched around two adroitly placed, 10-minute intermissions. The cast looks smart and appropriately upper-crust in Emily Robinson’s elegant costumes that are counterbalanced by the working-class togs adorning Jane’s maid and her tailor (or wardrobe proprietor) husband. The action plays out in Jane’s swank and tony Manhattan apartment that Tim Poertner fills with lavish accoutrements (it will double for the “Royal Family” set as well) courtesy of props mistress Peggy Knock, all handsomely lit by Michael Sullivan.
Best of all, there are several engaging performances to illustrate Krasna’s witty dialogue. As Jane, Kirsten Wylder has the look of an accomplished actress and precisely conveys her character’s patrician airs as well as Jane’s lingering frustration. She’s complemented handsomely by Jim Fuchs, who brings both a debonair demeanor and a mysterious undertone to Phillip’s façade. The two play off each other nicely, making their relationship easily believable.
Eleanor Mullin and David Gibbs sparkle as Jane’s stately sister and brother-in-law. While Mullin is amusing as the bluntly direct busybody Margaret, Gibbs contrasts appealingly as her low-key and sometimes exasperated husband.
The third duo are Anna the maid and Carl her husband, played in grand style by Carmen Russell and her real-life husband, Jesse Russell. While Carmen is convincing as the well-meaning and dutiful maid, Jesse offers the show’s most hysterically funny moments near its conclusion as the near-sighted Carl makes a mess of things in a scheme concocted by Jane to seek revenge against the conniving Phillip. Jesse Russell’s mastery of pratfalls and physical humor accentuate an already engaging production.
As their mission states, the folks at Act, Inc. have found another forgotten treasure. True to its period, it may seem a bit quaint now, but that’s also part of its charm. See it before it slips back into the misty shrouds of time.
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.