The Ladies Man Might Provide the Biggest Laugh of the Season
Lawrance Bernabo, Duluth News Tribune
September 23, 2011
I am not going to tell you that The Ladies Man, which opened at the Duluth Playhouse on Thursday night, is the funniest show you will see in town this year, because it is not. But I will shimmy up the tree and go out on a limb and declare this French farce has the biggest laugh of the season.
Dr. Hercule Molineaux (Jody Kujawa) has spent the night in the rain on a park bench because he failed to go along with the assignation he planned at the Moulin Rouge with Suzanne Aubin (Stacy Sudoh). Ironically, the fact he has not cheated on his wife, Yvonne (Jennie Ross), does not keep him from getting into as much trouble as if he did.
The comic confusion is compounded by Molineaux’s mother-in-law, Madame Aigreville (Holly Vontin), a lisping patient named Bassinet (Cody MacKenzie) and Gustav Aubin (Kendall Linn), the Prussian officer married to Suzanne. Since this is a French farce, we also have the valet, Etienne (Luke Moravec), and ladies maid, Marie (Alexandra Jost).
There are multiple doors for the cascade of entrances and exits that frequently erupt in such plays, but the piece de resistance proves not to be a door, but rather a revolving wall that director Anthony Nelson milked and milked and milked until the cows come home, and the opening night audience totally lost it.
Yes, there is a problem with having the biggest laugh coming halfway through the second act (which combines the second and third acts of the play), because nothing is going to top such a monumental explosion of laughter. Nelson has his cast striving toward warp speed on the delivery, to make up for only having one intermission, but makes sure everybody downshifts for the comic asides and gets what laughs there are to be got.
The Ladies Man takes a while to set up its laughs, but things start paying off surprisingly with the pairing of Vontin and Lin in the dressmaker’s shop as the script shows how one simple misunderstanding can be mined for several hysterical moments. Moravec also has some nice moments of physical comedy, and ultimately this is a show where actions get louder laughs than words.
It is interesting to see Kujawa as a leading man, because we are talking about the pre-eminent second banana in town who steals scenes effortlessly from anybody who ends up on stage with him. For most of his performance, Kujawa is remarkably restrained, dutifully letting others get the laughs and earning his own through a decidedly different understated delivery that culminated in his comic recapitulation of the tale of the two gloves. There are only a few moments toward the end where he starts to rev up and thoughts of Jackie Gleason leap to mind, and those brief moments cut across the overall grain of the character he has created on stage. This is not remotely close to Kujawa’s funniest performance, but it just might be his best.
Intro to Theatre
The Ladies Man
Only attending to one play as a young person in High School, The Ladies Man definitely interrupted my previous schema for plays and theatre itself. Although maybe not the funniest play known, it will have each person giggling as if they were at a standup comedian show. The act definitely had an impact on every attendee, smiles, laughs, and knee slapping were only several of the many different happy emotions felt. Director Anthony Nelson picked a wonderful cast to portray the loopy characters needed for this play.
After spending the night on a park bench, Dr. Hercule Molineaux (Jody Kujawa) is let in through the side door by the valet Etienne ( Luke Moravec) which is only the start of the mass chaos and confusion by all the characters. Although never cheating on his wife Ynonne Molineaux (Jennie Ross) with Suzanne Aubin (Stacy Sudoh) doesn't keep him from the trouble as if he did cheat on his wife.
Not only does Bassinet ( Cody MacKenzie) a lisping patient add to the confusion, but Molineaux's mother-in-law Madame Aigreville (Holly Vontin) is introduced to not only complicate the problem but add some of her own. Gustav Aubin (Kendall Linn) a Prussian officer married to Suzanne is put into awkward and confusing positions just like the ladies maid, Marie (Alexandra Jost.)
With so many doors for the cast to go in and out of, the doors don't serve as a place to hide, rather they portray a merry-go-round only adding to the confusion for the characters themselves. Seeing the show the second night had the audience gasping for air in laughter with every door being slammed and another door opened.
Although having my stomach already hurting from laughing, intermission allowed time to think about the climax of the play which came shortly into the second scene. In a place so simple, a dressmaker’s shop was the place for a great climax. The revolving wall with a bed attached to the other side had the biggest laugh by all in the audience. Even though the biggest laugh came early, the third scene still had many more to come. Nelson picked a good time for the biggest laugh, right when things couldn't have gotten any more confusing.
Kujawa, deserving all the laughs gives them up to the rest of the cast while they are on stage during the confusion. With a small misunderstanding, the rest of the cast seems to get into more trouble than Kujawa himself. Ending with an understanding for the two red gloves which played a significant role throughout the play was a typical yet satisfactory finish. After seeing the play and hearing that this may not be Kujawa's best performance, it may be one of the funniest in the area for this season.
Trying to find the Theater where The Ladies Man was showing was an experience itself, because of this I was late to the production which wasn’t a good start to the evening but soon turned around.
After being seated at the play in the very comfortable seats the show began, I was very confused about what The Ladies Man was about. After about eight minutes of the play it was very clear to me what was about. The problem all started because Dr. Molineaux was hiding something from his wife Yvonne Molineaux. This ended up being a large production with his mother in law, Bassinet, the maid the butler, and Mr. and Mrs. Aubin. Secrets were unraveling between everyone and a little white lie that started became a huge web of lies.
As for the actors and actresses in the production they all did a great job. I thought that the mother-in-law of Dr. Molineaux was a hoot. Yes, that was her role in the production but she really took it to the next level. The actors and actress could tell that what they were doing on the stage was pleasing the crowd. There wasn’t a time when the audience wasn’t laughing.
The one thing that they could have improved on is when something goes wrong, not to panic. There were a couple times that it seemed to catch the actors and actresses off guard. They did end up getting through it without any large errors but you could see it on their faces that something didn’t seem right. Also, during the part of the play when they were at the dress shop, they could have done a better job of explaining what was happening. There was a lot of confusion and when they were explaining it at the end of the production Dr. Molinaeux was talking too fast for anyone to understand what he was saying, and the audience would have wanted to know what he was saying to sum up the play. Otherwise the production went as plan as far as the audience knew.
When the play was finally over, even though it was a two hour production didn’t seem like it because it was very enjoyable to watch. The actors all got a standing ovation and they definitely deserved it. They all did a wonderful job of stepping into the characters shoes and being the character instead of just acting as if they were the character. This is why they got a standing ovation and so many laughs throughout the entire night.
Thursday Night Charles Morey’s play was opened at the Duluth Playhouse. The Ladies Man which was originally produced by Georges Feydeau in 1889 was hysterical to say the least. This comedic performance can be described as one of the better farces of the season.
The plays drama came from Dr. Hercule Molineaux played by Jodi Kujawa. Dr. Hercule gets himself in some sticky situations as the production unwinds. Dr. Hercule falls through with plans he made with Suzanne Aubin played by Stacy Sudoh to meet up at the Moulin Rouge. The only problem is that both the Doctor and Suzanne are married thus causing a conflict. Although the Doctor did not fall through with cheating the web of lies he puts out makes him look very guilty. Yvonne Molineaux played by Jennie Ross is the Doctors wife who believes he is being unfaithful. Yvonne being stressed out with the lies involves her mother Madame Aigreville played by Holly Vontin in her relationship problems. The more people that get involved the more the web of lies grows making it nearly impossible for Doctor Hercule to prove his innocence.
The actors in general were very convincing. Bassinet played by Cody MacKenzie played the role of a husband who had been left by his wife and also is suffering from a severe lisp. The lisp in the play persuaded the audience to believe that he indeed was suffering from this problem. Bassinet did a great job of playing the gullible but yet patient friend and performed great when talking with the lisp.
The stage was a masterpiece of its own. The French themed house came equipped with many doors, and really made the play more interesting. Successfully taking advantage of the whole stage was part of the production. You knew the audience was thoroughly engaged when you could see their eyes moving from door to door as the cast members bombarded in and out. In the second half of the play there was a dress making shop that also had many different doors. What was specifically unique was the secret entrance that turned when you pulled the mannequins arm. The once shelf full of cloth and supplies revolved into a romantic bed. The stage in The Ladies Man was a riot to the audience and kept them guessing because you never knew who was coming in or from where.
It is common in farce to involve physical humor and that’s just what The Ladies Man did. In the Ladies Man the physical humor in the play got just as much laughter as the spoken words if not more. There is a scene when the revolving wall keeps turning and with every turn there is something funny happening that can be easily misjudged by the viewer
The goal of The Ladies Man was to capture laughter and be entertaining and they did that and so much more. With sensational acting the cast of The Ladies Man deserved the overwhelming applause and the standing ovation they received at the end of the night.
The Duluth Playhouse greeted everyone with a fantastic performance Saturday night, as Anthony Nelson’s adaptation of The Ladies Man was presented for the second to last time. The play provided an array of comedic cast members that had audience members laughing the entire way through.
The main character, Dr. Hercule Molineaux (Jody Kujawa) had just returned home after spending the night in the rain on a park bench and is greeted by his energetic and witty valet Etienne (Luke Moravec). Moravec successfully places the audience in France with his comedic French accent and exaggerated posture.
Dr. Molineaux’s appearance at the Moulin Rouge quickly entangles him in a web of characters all after the truth about the previous night. From the lisp-ridden patient Bassinet ( Cody MacKenzie), to the eloquent Suzanne Aubin (Stacy Sudoh) whom Dr. Molineaux was supposed to meet at the Moulin Rouge and is accused of having relations with. His suspicious night only leads him into trouble with his wife Yvonne Molineaux (Jennie Ross), mother-in-law Madame Aigreville (Holly Vontin) and the halfwit Prussian soldier Gustav Aubin (Kendall Linn).
The comic genius resides in the fact the Dr. Molineaux has not in fact cheated on his wife, but still finds himself in the same peculiar situations if he had cheated. Kujawa successfully portrays innocence in his voice even while making up excuses and stories to please his pestering relatives and friends. Vontin plays a great mother-in-law by rubbing off as somewhat of a Cruella Deville and is better known as “Medusa” in the performance.
The use of doors in the play is simply spectacular, taking the audience on a wild goose chase all the way through. Nelson’s vision of characters running, yelling and slamming doors behind them proves to be an effective way of portraying chaos on a small set. The spinning set itself yields the largest laugh of the night by dispensing a montage of sexual situational humor upon the audience.
It seems the message or purpose Anthony Nelson sees in this production is more or less a piece of advice. Even when we know we are not guilty, making up excuses and lies only sinks us deeper into a pit. Kujawa portrays this message well, getting more and more desperate with each explanation he has to make to his peers. There’s much truth in this play because in real life, things never seem to get better until we are completely honest with one another.
The Ladies Man is definitely worth the watch for anyone looking for a good laugh. Nelson successfully uses comedy to relay his primary message of honesty. Since the production only has one intermission, the second and third acts seem to go relatively fast. The Duluth Playhouse provided great service although ticket prices seemed a little high. Having never been to a playhouse there was no idea what to expect, but this event was worth every penny.
The Ladies Man was a captivating performance. The actors and actresses portrayed their characters excellently. They certainly sold their feelings and emotions to their audience and made real connections throughout the night. The Ladies Man told a story about Dr. Molineaux, played by Jody Kujawa, married to Yvonne Molineaux, played by Jennie Ross. Dr. Molineaux is accused of “cheating” when Yvonne finds out he did not sleep at their home. The play continues on, including the lies Dr. Molineaux tells to keep out of trouble. Overall, The Ladies Man attained its audience until the close.
Director of the performance, Anthony Nelson, and his assistants picked the cast well. The characters were described as “loopy” in the program, and that they were with their crazy accents, lisps, facial expressions, and sarcastic comments. Their expressions throughout the whole performance were lively and action-filled. The actors and actresses stayed in great character throughout the play. When they came out to change the set, two characters that were in a quarrel at the time were still trying to catch each other when they were moving a piece of furniture. The audience found this very entertaining and clever, obvious from their laughs, for the director to keep the actors in character even when there was a break in the performance.
Speaking of the set, it was very exquisite but simple at the same time. Moving it around at intermission was a simple process for the set crew. There were many doors where the actors came in and out of, and in the second act, a spinning bed/dress parlor was built into it. It was quite difficult to keep up with all of the different alibis and who each character thought was who. On top of all of that, keeping track of who hadn’t met who and what room each character was in was a hard task, also. This tricky aspect of The Ladies Manwas what drew the audience’s attention and kept it through the two and a half hour play.
As an audience member, I was fortunate enough to sit behind the director of The Ladies Man during the performance on Saturday night. Nelson told me a bit about what went into the performance and why he directed it. He was talking about how he wished the audience to connect with at least one character in the play. For each person in the audience to connect to a character and be able to feel their “pain” or connect to their feelings would be a success. Betrayal, confusion, happiness, infidelity, curiousness, and comedy were all important aspects and feelings of this performance and were readily available for the audience to grab a hold of and relate to their own lives.
In conclusion, the performance had numerous situations happening all at once. If a person were to walk in at intermission, they would have the worst trouble in the world understanding what was going on. The second half of the performance was very busy and complicated, and it was dependent on the first act for the audience to understand the story. The Ladies Man was a great success to the audience on Saturday night. The actors and actresses seemed very well rehearsed and put forth a great performance.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on September 23, 2011 3:47 PM.
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The Laramie Project - UMD Stage 2 is the next entry in this blog.
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