BWW Reviews: THE SHOW-OFF in Westport Will Have You Ribbing Your Neighbors
The only thing worse than spending time with an insufferable bore is having to live with one. That's the précis of Westport Country Playhouse's flawless production of George Kelly's hilarious play, The Show-Off.
The 1924 show could easily have been updated, because the story is timeless. Aubrey Piper (Will Rogers - yes, that's his name), is loud, boastful and lazy, as well as a liar. But Amy Fisher (Clea Alsip) loves him, and her family reluctantly puts up with him, to varying degrees. Amy's father (Adam LeFevre) tries to avoid him at all costs. Her brother, Joe (Karl Baker Olson), is polite, but has a valid excuse to get away from him, her sister Clara (Mia Barron) runs interference for him while her brother-in-law Frank (Robert Eli) just shuts up and pays the bills. It's her mother, played by Jayne Houdyshell, who make no bones about her feelings. She loathes Aubrey. And she is straightforward when talking to Amy about her future with Aubrey.
How bad is Aubrey, really? Well, he might have been separated at birth from Annoying Orange and stretched to a lanky frame. (From my seat at the Westport Country Playhouse, his hair even looked rather orange.) The audience hears him before he's even on stage, and he conjures up images of a Greenwich family that founded Bernie Madoff's biggest feeder fund. They, too, were load, boastful and misrepresented themselves. Fortunately for the audience, Nicholas Martin directs the play flawlessly, striking just the right balance between depicting the respectability of the Fisher family and their vulnerability without turning them into caricatures.
Will Roger is practically perfect as Aubrey. The delightful, charming Clea Alsip really makes us believe that she actually loves the guy, even when she can no longer deny what he is. Mia Barron is lovely as her sister, who wants Amy to be happy, even though she is trapped in a loveless marriage. Karl Baker Olson is credible as Amy's brother, whose only interest in science. Robert Eli is properly enigmatic and indifferent as Clara's husband. Adam LeFevre is ideal a loveable husband and father who is also just a bit of a buffoon. Nat DeWolf is in fine form as the delivery man, and Marc Vietor is perfect as the insurance agent. But the cast members who shines brightest in this production is Jayne Howdyshell, as the mother who is nobody's fool. She also has some of the best lines in the show. "Everybody will have trouble if they live long enough," she says, and "She made her bed," she says of Amy, "but it looks as if I'll have to sleep in it." Then there is the line, "I never heard a married woman talk so much about love."
But it is Aubrey who has the final word as he makes up yet another story to steal the thunder from his brother-in-law. "A little bit of bluff goes a long way."
The Show-Off runs through June 29 at the Westport Country Playhouse. For tickets or more information, call (203) 227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org. Just don't miss it. It's hilarious. Women, especially, will be ribbing their neighbors.