BWW Review: Greenville Little Theatre embraces the silliness of LYING IN STATE
For Herb, a jaded political hack, getting his candidate, Ed, elected to office has more often than not seemed like a hopeless, impossible task.
Even more difficult, though, is the seemingly simple feat of making Ed popular.
So you can imagine Herb's delight when Ed's poll numbers suddenly skyrocket. Who knew, Herb muses, that "all we had to do was shoot him?"
Lying in State, a comedy by David C. Hyer, takes place entirely in a funeral parlor, where Ed takes center stage. In a casket. It seems that Ed died in a gunfight with home invaders. Unfortunately, it may have only been squirrels that were trying to invade his home - giant purple squirrels.
Elizabeth Colson stars as Ed's ex-wife, Edna, who's been roped into organizing the funeral, thanks to a provision in Ed's will. For the past few years she's been largely absent from the political scene - ever since Ed accidentally shot her in the, um, posterior region. But despite - or maybe because of - all this, Herb (Evan Harris) has decided that Edna is the perfect person to take over Ed's senate seat.
Complications soon arise, however, in the form of Buttons (Emily Grove), Ed's fiancée. Seems that Ed's deathbed wish was to have Buttons run for his senate seat. Buttons has a lot of, ahem, intimate knowledge of other politicians, including Ed's opponent, that could prove very helpful in the campaign.
Will Herb find a worthy candidate? Will Edna be able to stay sane with so many crazy people around her? And, most importantly, will Ed's body make it to his own funeral?
Greenville Little Theatre's production of Lying in State delivers many laughs through some clever lines and a general good-natured goofiness that permeates the show. It's a silly show filled with silly characters.
Elizabeth Colson makes a fine Edna, solid and mostly unflappable as chaos breaks out around her. Emily Grove is wonderfully ditzy as Buttons, and Graham Shaffer makes a good impression as a young go-getter named Wally.
It's the veteran performers, however, who really make the show work. GLT favorite Evan Harris is a natural for the antic Herb, and Shane Willimon brings an easy comic gravitas to his role as the governor. The always fabulous Kelly Wallace has a lot of the best moments as a drunk mourner named Margo, and Allen McCalla makes a strong comic impression as Ed's brother, Harry.
The script disappoints a little in its reliance on talk over action. If anything, it's almost not silly enough. With gifted physical comedians like Harris, Wallace, and McCalla in the cast, one longs to see some heightened farce-level bits. That being said, these performers - under the direction of Sam McCalla - certainly do their best with what they're given. Allen McCalla's repeated stumbling over a step, for instance, is an absolute joy to behold, and Wallace's drunk act is comedy gold. But there are a couple of dead spots where the jokes don't quite work, and a little too much standing around talking on the phone. Fortunately, the cast plows through, playing up the silliness enough to make the audience forgive the nonsensical plot and occasional dud joke.
Along with the cast, special kudos also go Rick Conner's lovely set, and Thomas Brooks' costumes, particularly Button's showy ensembles.
In the end, this apolitical political comedy will definitely put a big smile on your face. And couldn't we all use a good laugh these days?
Lying in State runs through April 23 at Greenville Little Theatre, 444 College St, Greenville SC. For tickets and showtimes, call the box office at 864-233-6238 or visit www.greenvillelittletheatre.org.