“ICTC lavishes considerable talents on ‘The Awful Truth'” – Peter Hall, Buffalo Rising

THE BASICS: THE AWFUL TRUTH, a 1922 comedy by Arthur Richman presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, starring Eric Rawski, Zak Ward, Diane Curley, Ellen Horst, Maura Nolan, Adriano Gatto, Marisa Caruso, and Chris Kelly runs through Mother’s Day, Sunday May 13, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 7:30, Sundays at 2 at the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main Street. Full service bar, some snacks. (853-ICTC). www.irishclassicaltheatre.com Runtime: two hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Despite being very well compensated following her divorce, Lucy Warriner has lavish tastes and habits, and, now broke, has set her cap on multi-millionaire oil man Daniel Leeson. In her way is the oil man’s aunt who has heard a nasty rumor as to the grounds of that divorce. Now Lucy must convince all interested parties of her innocence.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: At the Irish Classical Theatre, it’s either a real downer about powerless down and outers at the mercy of life, the system, and each other (MINDING FRANKIE and THE NIGHT ALIVE) or else it’s a “drawing room comedy” where rich people just treat each other badly. Of course, with the bright patina of the well off, all is forgiven. Pecunia non olet (“money does not stink”) as the saying goes. THE AWFUL TRUTH, a 1922 play by the relatively unknown Arthur Richman, is in the same vein as two other early 20th century plays this 2017-2018 season –  DESIGN FOR LIVING by Noel Coward and THE CONSTANT WIFE by W. Somerset Maugham. All three plays take place during The Jazz Age and the protagonist in each is a liberated women – sexually liberated, definitely, and in at least two of the plays, somewhat financially liberated as well.

The ICTC has billed 2017-2018 as a “season of comedy” but I would suggest that it’s more a season of plays in which the action is always initiated by a woman. In every one of the six plays at the ICTC, a woman has a problem; she goes about solving it; and the chips fall upon the just and the unjust.

In every one of the six plays at the ICTC, a woman has a problem; she goes about solving it; and the chips fall upon the just and the unjust.

The players in this first-rate production are, well, first rate, and you can attend with the assurance that everyone on stage will delight you in the way that we’ve come to expect from the ICTC when they’re in their “drawing room comedy” element. Diane Curley is beyond charming as Lucy Warriner, the divorcee with her eyes on the money of Daniel Leeson, the rugged Oklahoma oil man a bit out of his element in Manhattan, played effectively by Eric Rawski. And the rest of the cast fully delivers, including Ellen Horst as Daniel’s dour Aunt, Adriano Gatto as the suave former husband, Marisa Caruso as the perpetually confused maid, Celeste, and Chris Kelly as the ne’er do well, Rufus Kempster. But I would like to single out two minor roles which were acted with such insouciance by a pair both in their first appearance on the ICTC stage.  The performances by Zak Ward as the idle rich and none-too-bright character Eustace Trent who is married to the snappy “with it” Josephine Trent, played with high energy by Maura Nolan, stayed with me long after the curtain. (Note: Bring them back! We want more!)

The production elements were also flawless, starting with direction by Fortunato Pezzimenti, costumes by Bethany Kasperek (Vivian DelBello, Wardrobe Mistress), Hair and Make-up designed by Susan Drozd and a very convincing set by David Dwyer which included a baby grand piano (or maybe that should come under props, also very clever, by Emma English) and Sound Design by Tom Makar.

Is this a timeless classic, tinged with genius, by one of the great writers of all time? No. Actually, this play is like dinner theater. Really, really well-done dinner theatre, but Coward or Maugham or Wilde it ain’t. On the other hand, it’s fun and only two hours long, and don’t you deserve a laugh? Of course you do.