Review: “S.S. Farndale is clear, funny sailing” at NTC

Newnan Theatre Company set sail last week with the latest incarnation of the Farndale series…if you’re not familiar, here’s the brief to get you up to – what? speed? Full sails?  Anyway: English wits David McGillivray and writing partner Walter Zerlin created the world of Farndale Avenue Housing Estate, where the Townswomen’s Dramatic Society runs rampant over great theatre and good taste. The Ladies have, in a series of 10 plays, executed Shakespeare, French Farce, Murder Mystery, Science Fiction and Gilbert & Sullivan – and when I say ‘executed’ I mean it. All of the Farndale plays are fine examples of what the British so charmingly call ‘Coarse Acting’…you know the sort. An actor might remember his lines – but not necessarily in their proper order. Cues aren’t dropped, they’re hurdled across the room. Props are made to be broken. Upstaging is the goal. Of course, in the Farndale plays all the bad acting, cue dropping, upstaging and general mayhem are written into the script; it’s the point of the thing. All of which means, it’s bloody great fun.

Nothing is meant to be taken seriously here. All the acting is big and broad and well, BAD.  Really bad. In the best way.  In this latest outing, the Ladies ‘set sail’ on the SS Farndale Avenue, in the setting of a 1930’s romantic comedy. Think Fred and Ginger.

Tony Daniels steals this show, just as he has in past Farndales, as the dimwitted but ever game for anything Gordon. We can pity poor Gordon because he’s the only man in the ‘Ladies Guild’ but honestly, it would just fly over his head. It’s rather alarming just how good Daniels is at playing dumb.  Gonna have to have a word with Costume Designer Patty Ellis for putting that man in a flapper dress – that’s gonna be burned into the retinas for a while – but her work is spot on.

Terri Whitley is back as Mrs. Reece, the most sensible of the Ladies; as usual she’s DOING HER VERY BEST to keep the show on an even keel, but alas…

Andi Laaker is back too, in her role as Thelma – who is also the current (and evermore) reigning ‘Miss Farndale’, and she’s not about to let us forget it. Ms. Laaker is a gifted comedienne and can hold a stage with the best of them.

Allison Yost is new to the Farndale crew, as Felicity, and shows a great deal of promise, with lots of energy and verve. She throws herself into the physicality of the show and the show is better for it.

Finally, one of our favorite locals, Megs Free, comes on in an assortment of (mostly) soundless roles. Yes, she’s got a bit at the top and end of the show but, come on folks. Ms. Free is sadly underutilized and that’s a shame. She’s got magnificent timing.

Director Mary Caroline Moore has again pulled off a Farndale visit that’s well worth your time – if you enjoy laughing at terrible jokes, physical comedy and yucks of the lowest theatrical order. And who doesn’t?