Big screwball rom-com fun with Frances & Marybeth

Neale Kimmel’s play Frances and Marybeth had a premiere of Act I at Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival last year; check out my post from the Alumnae Theatre blog from NIF 2011 Week One (from back when I was the Alum bloggergal): http://alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/new-ideas-week-one-opening-2/

A year later, she’s teamed up again with director Heather Keith to mount the entire play at the Factory Theatre Studio. I managed to catch the closing performance yesterday afternoon.

Actors Meaghen Quinn (Frances) and Carolyn Grace Hall (Marybeth) return to play the titular sisters, joined by Matt Wells (Rick), Jesse Bond (Antonio) and David Ross (Paul). And those of us who saw the NIF Act I premiere finally find out for certain that the unseen Kevin is in fact Marybeth’s dog and not her son; she just treats him like a son.

Frances has been crashing on Marybeth’s couch for over three months, getting over a heartbreaking break-up with her cheating fiance Rick. The two sisters are complete polar opposites: Frances is a spontaneous, rock ‘n roll party girl, while Marybeth is a quiet, organized homebody whose fear of making mistakes has turned her love of painting into a paint-by-numbers hobby. Following a gynecology appointment (where both she and her doc broke down crying over lost love), Frances has a moment of enlightenment on public transit when a kind stranger tells her that everything will be okay. This leads her to making a date with a tall, handsome Spanish man (Antonio) she meets at the grocery store – and she manages to convince Marybeth into hosting a dinner party double date at her house, with her paint-by-numbers Craigslist patron Paul joining them. Insanity ensues when Rick shows up unexpectedly while the girls are getting ready, and Marybeth tries her darndest to hide him from Frances. Then there’s Antonio, who’s not what he seems to be, and Paul, who pretty much is – and further hijinks break out during the course of a milk-based menu (to use up the 14 litres of milk the women have in the house) as the double date continues while Rick sits off to the side, attempting to drink a 4-litre jug of buttermilk to prove his love for Frances. Of course, things have a way of working themselves out, leaving everyone exhausted in the process. A very funny cast; Quinn and Hall are particularly good – you really believe in the history and relationship these two have as sisters. Big screwball comic fun – like Keith says in her director’s notes in the program: the show is like a slumber party. And we’re all invited.

I wish I could tell you to go see this, but the run is finished. Look out for this play and others by Kimmel. She’s definitely a playwright to keep an eye on.

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Author: life with more cowbell

Arts/culture social bloggerfly & Elwood P. Dowd disciple. Likes playing with words. A lot. Toronto

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