BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre Presents DEAR RUTH

BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre Presents DEAR RUTH

The joyful noise emanating from downtown Gilbert is the unrestrained laughter of audiences during Hale Centre Theatre's uproarious production of Norman Krasna's timeless screwball comedy, DEAR RUTH.

This play, fresh, clean, and genuinely funny, is matched by a cast everyone of whom is pitch perfect in their roles.

DEAR RUTH is situation comedy at its best, the situation being the unintended consequences of a good faith effort to boost soldier morale.

In this case, Miriam, the Wilkins Family's precocious but intensely patriotic teen daughter, a rebel with multiple causes (either blithely placing calls to Secretary of War Henry Stimson or volunteering her father for blood donations), unbeknownst to anyone, has been pen palling under the name of her older sister Ruth with troops overseas. Clara Bentz nails this role with a fusion of mischief, charm, and naivete that is downright captivating.

Sarah Davidson is ideal as the 180° opposite of her conspiratorial sibling ~ elegant, mature, and poised. And definitely nonplussed and at wit's end when one of Miriam's correspondents, the strac and engaging Lieutenant William Seawright (played effortlessly by Josh Hunt) shows up to collect on love.

Befuddlement becomes the Wilkins Family, which until the surprise appearance of the unexpected swain, has been the epitome of a Father Knows Best clan. The officious Judge Harry Wilkins (Tim Paul Fiscus), a softie when it comes to his daughters, perplexed by the complexity of the situation, may retreat behind the daily newspaper, or, when push comes to shove, defer to the ever-practical mother Edith (Laura Soldan).

Even Dora the maid (played with quirky panache by the delightful Ami Porter) ~ a truly avowed patriot in her own right, saluting everything from God Bless America on the radio to an officer in the living room ~ is invested in happily ever after. Perhaps not invested as much as Ruth's bewildered fiancé, Albert Cumer, portrayed with over-the-top hilarity by Nicholas Gunnell.

A secondary plot gives further lift to the chaos when Seawright's Army buddy (Nathan Spector) and sister Martha (Veronica Spector) ~ yes, the actors are real life husband and wife) work out their own amorous relationship.

These classic portrayals of classic characters (nuclear family stereotypes made famous from the '30's through the '50's a la such icons as the Hardy's and the Nelson's) still resonate because of the clarity and honesty with which timeless emotions and aspirations are conveyed. The entire cast is superb in recreating a period of long-gone innocence ~ just approaching the threshold of a post-war awakening about complex social issues ~ and and effervescent as they navigate the story's riotous twist and turns.

Premiering on Broadway in 1944 and adapted to film in 1947, Hale's DEAR RUTH, directed by Cambrian James, proves the durability of the work and is a refreshing breath of comic theatre.

DEAR RUTH runs through November 13th.

Photo credit to Nick Woodward- Shaw

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From This Author Herbert Paine

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