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BWW Review: Mesa Community College Theatre and Film Arts Department Presents Melissa Leilani Larson's GIN MUMMY

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The production of GIN MUMMY runs through December 11th at the MCC Theatre in Mesa. NOTE: A talk back with the playwright is scheduled for the performances on the 10th and 11th.

BWW Review: Mesa Community College Theatre and Film Arts Department Presents Melissa Leilani Larson's GIN MUMMY

I am delighted to welcome Mark Hackmann as a guest contributor to the pages of BroadwayWorld for his review of the Mesa Community College Theatre and Film Arts Department's production of Melissa Leilani Larson's GIN MUMMY.

Mark writes software for a living, not reviews, but he has been involved in theatre as an actor in the Valley for about 40 years. He is currently waiting out the pandemic by wearing a mask and watching others perform.

Here now ~ From the keyboard of Mark Hackmann:

In the time of Oscar Wilde, the Victorians held sway in England. Social mores often required the repression of one's true desires and forced people to find ways to accommodate them without scandal. Mr. Wilde was famously prosecuted for his lifestyle, but the setting of this play predates that. GIN MUMMY explores how secret LGBTQ desires might have been accommodated, and it does so with warmth and humor.

It takes place in 1894 when all things Egyptian were in vogue. Mummies were considered party attractions and were apparently unwrapped and dissected for the entertainment of the guests. Well-to-do Beth Carlisle (Valerie Meza) is being feted at an engagement party thrown by her guardian, Great Aunt Normandy (Angela Kabasan). Her fiancé, Marshall Fowler (Donovan Balu), has been doing research in Egypt for most of a year and is to be the surprise guest at the party. The house servants, Rebekah Meyers (Natalie Payán) and Old Hans (Emillio Hernandez), are preparing for the festivities with a bit of resentment for their employers and the extra work required.

We soon learn that everyone has a hidden agenda, and relationships are not all they seem. Each character wants something that society forbids and is looking to find a way to get what they want without losing what they have. Beth and Marshall are betrothed, but Beth prefers her friend Amy Dunbar (Therese Cudmore), who is pursued by Franklin Mint (Michael Rodriguez), but who falls for Dr. Lydia Lyall Sterling (Haylee Haynes). Mrs. Meyers and Old Hans have a secret romance, and aspirations of their own, and Great Aunt Normandy schemes to honor the family name.

The play is written to be in the language of the day and succeeds pretty well at that. It veers into modern phrasing at times, but for the most part, sticks to authentic-sounding verbiage. The actors manage Victorian mannerisms admirably. The subject matter of the play is decidedly not period, however, at least as would be permitted in polite society. Nothing risqué, no worse than a little same-sex bussing.

Directed suitably by James Rio, the material tries to be a comedy of manners and generally succeeds. The first half of the show is fairly believable, with each character doing their best to play their societal role. Later, things get a bit more farcical. Various calamities are either ignored or borne with a typical British stiff-upper-lip. At times, this stretched this reviewer's credulity, but not to an extreme.

Valerie and Donovan carry most of the show and are strong leads. Natalie and Emillio, as the servants, are enjoyable in their secret rebellious moments. Natalie shines here and is fun to watch. Therese, as the best friend, and Michael, her paramour, are fine supporting cast. Haylee plays the doctor quite stiffly, as appropriate. Angela's scenes are a highlight of the show.

The costumes are quite gorgeous, in the period, and for the most part, fit the actors well. The set is lovely, detailed, and believable. The bookcase looks quite realistic, which is unusual due to the effort required. A nice scene is visible through the picture window, also a difficult achievement. The wigs and makeup are a bit uneven but do not detract. The lighting and sound design are stellar, but the cast is unmiked. While most of the dialog is understandable, more vocal projecting and enunciation wouldn't hurt.

As an homage to Oscar Wilde and his genius, this is a very enjoyable evening of theatre and deserves a longer run than this Covid-shortened one. It's here for a single weekend, so try to catch it before it disappears.

The production of GIN MUMMY runs through December 11th at the MCC Theatre in Mesa. NOTE: A talk back with the playwright is scheduled for the performances on the 10th and 11th.

MCC Theatre is located at 1833 West Southern Avenue, Mesa, AZ 85202. Performance Dates: Dec. 9 - 11 at 7:30 pm, and Dec. 11 at 2 pm. Ticket Prices: General Public - $12.00 and Student/Staff/Military - $9.00. For more information, visit https://www.mesacc.edu/arts/ZeR.

Mesa Community College Theatre and Film Arts Department~ 1833 West Southern Avenue, Mesa, AZ ~ https://www.mesacc.edu/arts/events/theatre ~ 480-461-7172


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