BWW Reviews: ON THE RAZZLE Cast Dives into Stoppard's Farcical Hilarity Full Force

ON THE RAZZLE is an older British term for what we in the colonies would translate as "partying down." Playwright Tom Stoppard has stated that his "primary concern is to make the tale as comic an entertainment as possible." Stoppard's farce consists of two hours of slapstick shenanigans, mistaken identities, misdirected orders, malapropisms, double entendres, and romantic complications. There is no great earthshaking social message here, just impossible situations, incredible physicality, and loads of laughs.

Tom Stoppard is, of course, among the most popular of living British playwrights (although he was born in Czechoslovakia). His most famous works include "Arcadia," "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," "The Real Inspector Hound," "The Real Thing," "Rough Crossing" and "Travesties." He is the winner of seven Tony Awards.

Set in Vienna at the turn of the 20th Century, ON THE RAZZLE follows the hilarious adventures of two naughty grocer's assistants who flee their country establishment and go "on the razzle." That is, they head for the big city (Vienna) in search of adventure and relief from the tedium of their daily routines. They find love, romance and naughty hijinks. Their boss, meanwhile, has also headed for Vienna in pursuit of a romance of his own. And of course since this is a British farce, there will be mistaken identities, black lingerie, lots of doors with many entrances and exits.

If any of this seems familiar, that's okay. Playwright Tom Stoppard has based his comedy, first presented in 1981, on a mid-19th Century play by Johann Nestroy. Nestroy's play also served as the inspiration for "The Matchmaker" and "Hello, Dolly!" But Stoppard makes this take on the tale uniquely his own: There are no songs, it's not set in New York, and there's no Dolly Levi in sight.

Pete Parkin directs ON THE RAZZLE with a keen eye to pacing and a cast that thoroughly enjoys themselves by diving into the hilarity full force.. The cast includes (in alphabetical order) Jeanine Anderson, Lacy Blake, Frank Gangarossa, Mary Garripoli, Gera Hesmann, Joey Jennings, Maria Kress, Ernest McDaniel, Donald Moore, Lindsey Jean Roetzel, Chloe Rosenthal, Janie Steele, Cathy Diane Tomlin and Andrew Walker.

I am not quite sure why two of the male roles in the cast were played by women. Jeanine Anderson plays Melchoir, the new servant to Zangler (Andrew Walker, comically utilizing his tight uniform for all it is worth), the owner of a retail shop. It is very apparent in Anderson's mannerisms that she is a female trying to be male, rather than just being male. This being a farce of course, that could surely be the intention of the director.

The real stars of the show are the two grocer's assistants at Zangler's shop, Lacy Blake as Christopher and tall physical comedian Joey Jennings as Weinberl. Certainly these two are the precursors to Cornelius and Barnaby, looking for some fun while the boss is away. These two actors are a joy to watch, and Miss Blake certainly plays her male character will a presence that often allows you to forget she is female. Jennings make the most of every exit, using his log legs and masterly physicality to evoke roars of laughter each time he leaves a scene.

Many of the other characters are pure fluff, more caricature than characters as they should be in a farce. There are the two young lovers, Maria (Chloe Rosenthal) and Sonders (Frank Gangarossa), forbidden to be together by the girl's rich uncle. So of course they are drawn together like magnets at every opportunity, generating laughs each time a new way to be together is invented. But it is Mary Garripoli who has the best time of all, gloriously portraying Gertrud, a cute little butterball not-too-bright maid with a wiggle in her walk and a smile that light up the stage.

And for the very much required beautiful, young woman in black lingerie, director Parkin enlists Lauren M. Huston who uses all her sexual wiles as she parades across scene breaks like a boxing ring girl, carrying cards that assist with time passing or announcing intermission.

Jeff G. Rack has again designed a set that adapts to the many scene needs of the show. Costumer Marjorie Vander Hoff perfectly coordinated the color scheme of the set with lovely, rich touches of purple offset by soft beige tones on the men with shades of peach for the female lovers. The overall feeling is light and airy, perfect for this ON THE RAZZLE confection.

ON THE RAZZLE, written by Tom Stoppard. Adapted by "Einen Jux will er sich machen" by Johann Nestroy. Directed by Pete Parkin with John Gallogly as co-director. Produced by Jill Jones. Presented by Theatre West. Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. Performances continue through November 2, 2014 on Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:00 at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles, CA 90068. This is near Universal City, North Hollywood and Studio City. There is free parking in a lot across the street.

ADMISSION: $25 at the door, $20 online. Seniors $20 at the door, $15 online. Groups of twelve or more, $15 each ticket. Students with I.D. to age 25, $5. RESERVATIONS: (323) 851-7977.

Photo credit: Charlie Mount.

Cathy Diane Tomlin (l.), Maria Kress, Joey Jennings, Lacy Blake.

Andrew Walker (l.), Gera Hermann, Jeanine Anderson, Chloe Rosenthal, Frank Gangarossa.

Lacy Blake (l.), Gera Hermann, Cathy Diane Tomlin, Maria Kress, Joey Jennings.

Maria Kress (l.), Cathy Diane Tomlin, Joey Jennings.

Joey Jennings (l.), Lindsey Jean Roetzel, Lacy Blake.

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From This Author Shari Barrett