BWW Reviews: Crown City Theatre Rounds a DANGEROUS CORNER
Dangerous Corner, an intriguing play about relationships written by J.B. Priestley in 1932 has a fresh, new look at Crown City Theatre. Director Gary Lamb's vision brings the play into the 60s and puts the spirit of a deceased character on stage, singing, playing the piano, lounging imperiously and fluttering about as he controls the heated discussion of his supposed suicide. When it becomes clear that there are two divergent directions that the plot could take, this new charade seems entirely appropriate and, in fact, greatly enhances Priestley's perspective on disclosing truth versus half-truths. Now at Crown through November 4, Dangerous Corner has a captivating cast.
British playwright Priestley wrote very intelligent dialogue, but unlike Noel Coward, who always peppered his work with immense wit and humor, Priestley's is rather stuffy... yet incisive and dramatic. Gary Lamb's new adaptation really helps to create a sense of humor in the piece whereby the spirit of Martin Chatfield (Cortes Alexander) - very Cowardesque - gestures and grimaces, and even screams out on occasion with a few choice words. His feelings about what the others are saying about him speaks volumes and forces the audience to judge the characters and their behavior. No one present is without a certain amount of guilt. Robert Chatfield (Matt Williamson) and his wife Freda (Libby Baker) are quite obviously deeply unhappy, but each is unaware of the other's attraction to someone else. Gordon (Jordan Wall), a partner of Robert, Martin and Charles Stanton (Seth Peterson) and his young wife Betty (Rachel Amanda Bryant) seem happy on the surface until dark secrets gradually emerge from both of them. Stanton's mysterious, complex reactions unravel to no good end, except his own. Friend Olwen Peele (Tara Bopp) was the last to see Martin alive, so everyone looks to her to supply the answers, some of which she eventually does, but they are hardly what was anticipated. Deceit, lies, half truths are blatantly exposed, and what remains is quite a depressing scenario - it might be worse without the spirit of Martin to roll things along with his neurotic, mischief-making style, thanks to his ingenious inclusion by Lamb.
The actors are terrific. Alexander is so expressive without uttering a word, and when he sings, he sets the stage ablaze. Even without a British accent, he brings the naughty flavor of Coward to the proceedings. Lamb has selected great old standards like "That Old Black Magic", "Blue Moon", "My Funny Valentine", "Smile" and has strategically placed them for Martin to react specifically to what has or is about to happen. At times there are only a few bars from a tune, but it's enough to set the mood. Alexander's strongly affecting presence is in tune with the other performances. Williamson conveys Robert's selfish oblivion so well; Peterson, as well, really nails Charles' self-indulgence; Wall is wonderful giving Gordon a sense of pride and integrity, no matter how weak. Baker is dynamic as Freda, never missing a beat as she challenges everyone around her; Bryant does an excellent job conveying Betty's immaturity and Bopp is so good with Olwen's quiet insecurities and longing. Carol Goans adds color and contrast in her brief appearances as author Maud Mockridge.
At play's end, I fully understood Lamb's concept and how much it improves the comprehension of the play, as well as increasing its entertainment value. As director, Lamb keeps the piece moving with a skilled, steady hand befitting the play's formal, drawing-room structure. Keiko Moreno has designed an economical set that is cold and austere, well representing the inhabitants of the country house with their lack of warmth.
Crown City Theatre is to be lauded for their risk taking. This is a great acing company that always rises to new challenges and endeavors with the utmost professionalism.