By Jana Rivera
GASLIGHT THEATRE TAKES a razzing from "serious" theatre goers in this town. Gaslight is certainly not on the cutting edge. It doesn't produce exciting new works from contemporary playwrights. It doesn't offer the latest adaptation of Ibsen nor even a classic translation of Chekhov. In fact, it offers nothing that could be called intellectually stimulating or morally challenging. It is downright predictable--which is precisely why the Gaslight players perform in front of a packed house almost every night.
Audiences know what to expect at Gaslight and they're seldom disappointed. They want villains and heroes and ladies in distress. They expect to hear a little music and maybe even sing along. They simply want to sit back, order a pizza and a beer, have a few laughs, and be entertained for an hour or two. It's a place to take the kids for a family night out and a place to entertain those pesky out-of-town visitors with minimal effort.
Gaslight Theatre does one thing, it's been doing it for more than 15 years, and it does it very well--the classic melodrama. Although the press release says Gaslight moved in a bold new direction with its latest production, Under Two Flags, don't worry, it didn't. It's still the same old melodrama with fancy new costumes.
Bert Cecil (good guy) is about to inherit a good deal of money and marry Lady Venetia (beautiful lady). The Marquis de Chateauroy (evil guy) teams up with Ivan Baroni (evil guy no. 2) to cheat Cecil out of his money and win the heart of the lovely Lady Venetia. With the help of Countess Beatrice of Warminster (evil mother), he succeeds, and Cecil flees with a couple of buddies (two more good guys) to join the French Foreign Legion.
In France, he attempts to mend his broken heart by taking up with the young French soldier, Cigarette (pretty girl). Eventually the Marquis de Chateauroy is transferred back to France as the officer in charge of the brigade in which Cecil is stationed, and his wife, Lady Venetia, finds her way back into the arms of Cecil.
At this point, of course, we get to see the good guy in anguish as he faces his most difficult decision--beautiful lady or pretty girl?
David R. Fanning, reeking with goodness, plays Bert Cecil. Fanning played Sonny Montana in Gaslight's last production, and he was so perfect as the sparkly cowboy, I wouldn't have believed he could do any other character. I was wrong. His performance is equally good here, but I'll bet he can't do a bad guy--he's just too good.
At the end of the first act, Linda L. Reid (Cigarette) races through the audience hoisting the flag of France over her head to make her entrance on stage. From this point, she elevates the level of the piece with a spirited and accomplished performance. If she's not having too much fun at Gaslight, she's headed for an exciting acting career.
In addition to those mentioned, the Gaslight cast sports a host of talented actors including Tim Gilbert, Joe Cooper, David Sullivan, Cameron Martin and Betsy Kruse, who are able to draw the humor and drama out of the melodrama and keep it from lapsing into inane nonsense. A few messed up lines here and there only added to the fun with clever ad-libbing from a witty cast working under a director (Carol Calkins) who obviously emphasizes good comedic timing and pure fun.
Each Gaslight production ends with vaudeville olio acts offering lots of singing and plenty of corny jokes. Just relax, quit worrying about who might see you, and sing along.
Gaslight Theatre's production of Under Two Flags continues with performances Wednesdays through Sundays at 7 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. until June 3. There will be a Sunday matinee on May 14 and 28. Tickets are $12.95 for adults, $10.95 for students, seniors and military, and $6 for children under 12. Gaslight is located at 7010 E. Broadway. Call 886-9428 for reservations and information.
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