BWW Reviews: SUGAR DADDIES at ACT Gives Complex and Funny Characters
Sir Alan Ayckbourn certainly knows how to bring rich and complex characters to life and then set them spinning to hilarious ends and his current production of "Sugar Daddies", making it's American Premiere at ACT, is no exception. And while it could use some trimming, he gives us a sobering yet funny look at how nothing comes without a price.
Sasha (Emily Chisholm) is a young naïve and bubbly girl. She's always looking on the bright side, always has a kind word to say or a reassuring shoulder to lean on and finds the best in most people. So it's no surprise when Val (Sean G. Griffin), a volunteer hospital Santa is almost run down by a passing car, she invites him into her flat to recuperate from the ordeal. And while she is seeking no reward for her brief act of good samaritanship, it sparks a friendship between her and her new friend "Uncle Val" that comes with expensive dinners and gifts. But does it also come with strings? Sasha's overly suspicious Sister Chloe (Elinor Gunn) as well as their new downstairs neighbor Ashley (John Patrick Lowrie) seem to think so. But Sasha is oblivious to any negativity and won't hear a bad word against Val, which just gets her further and further entrenched in the situation.
Not to worry, yes it's a comedy. But there's definitely an edge to this one as we learn more and more about Val's past as the show goes on and that he may not be the sweet old man he portrays. And while Ayckbourn (who also directs the production) brings the funny into the piece what he also brings is a show that's just a wee bit too long, especially for a light comedy. The program lists it at 2 hours 10 minutes. I was told it was 2 hours 30 minutes. In actuality it comes in just under 3 hours. So it could definitely use a bit of editing. But even with its length it gives an engaging look into getting something for nothing.
The ensemble of the piece is top notch and truly brings layers to their roles. Griffin starts off as the sweetest grandpa you'd ever meet but even then you can sense the duplicitous nature, which is only confirmed as the play goes along. Chisholm is a wonder and turns in a beautifully complex character and has a stunning arc throughout the show. Gunn starts out a bit acerbic but then shows some wonderful comedic timing and some magnificent growth as well. Lowrie too gives a gorgeously complex character as the new neighbor who knows the truth about Val. And Anne Allgood once again wows as a former acquaintance of Val's who calls him friend but has a deeper history. Allgood may only be in one scene of the play but she turns in her usual stunner as her character manages tons of growth and complexity in just a few short minutes.
It's not a groundbreaker of a piece but with this level of talent involved, you really can't go wrong.
"Sugar Daddies" performs at ACT through November 3rd. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion