Review: ‘Heavenly Body’
Eye candy and laughs served at dinner theater
What do you get when you mix a pair of opposite-sex writers desperately searching for a plot and a buxom beauty who mysteriously shows up at the cabin they’re sharing for a week? Why, a cute, screwball romantic comedy with plenty of eye candy, of course – and that’s what’s on the menu this summer at The 14th Street Dinner Theatre in Madison Heights!
Serving up a play of any kind during the summer can be a risky venture – just ask the legions of theaters that tried and failed over the years – but StarBrite Presents Dinner Theater chief Randy Magner seems to understand the marketplace. Don’t make the audience think, his instincts tell him; make them laugh, instead.
And that’s just what the audience did last Friday night at the opening of “Heavenly Body” by W. Randolph Galvin!
Longtime writing partners Ralph and Carmen have secluded themselves in a very rustic cabin in order to meet the deadline for their next project: a science fiction novel. While that might sound somewhat easy, the pair has no experience with the genre – and the ideas they’re coming up with would get them laughed out of the marketplace.
To complicate matters, Randy forgot the can opener – so there goes dinner – and the “facilities” are outdoors. And if that’s not enough, Randy has the hots for his partner – but won’t come out and tell her – and an already uptight Carmen – who’s not thrilled with the accommodations – is even crankier than usual.
So with the two already on edge, flashes of light outside and loud noises in the distance convince Carmen that maybe – just maybe – aliens have crash landed nearby. Randy isn’t convinced, however, until a there’s a knock on the door – and a beautiful, nearly naked and unconscious blonde tumbles into his arms.
The writers jump to conclusions, as you might imagine, and when she awakens, Zenda seems to confirm their suspicions. “I come from a place you’d find alien,” the flirty and horny traveler tells them.
So Randy – who, as usual, is getting nowhere with Carmen – shifts his amorous attention to their oh-so-eager-to-please visitor. Which – surprise, surprise! – doesn’t sit well with Carmen!
Written in the 1970s, “Heavenly Body” is an old-fashioned, yet very familiar concept with no pretensions to be anything other than what it is: a screwball romantic comedy. Its basic plot has been used by nearly every television sitcom ever produced, but it continues to generate laughs because of its universal appeal.
Also appealing are the show’s three cast members: WWJ news anchor Greg Bowman, who brings his dulcet tones – and puppy dog eyes – to the stage in the role of Ralph; Nicole Majdali as Carmen; and the stunningly cute Carey Shawn as Zenda.
Director Magner keeps the show briskly moving and mines much of the show’s humor. However, I suspect his cast might not have a lot of professional theater experience, as they occasionally found themselves accidentally – and uncomfortably – upstaging one another in the first act on opening night. I also suspect that it won’t happen for long!
“Heavenly Body” StarBrite Presents Dinner Theater at the 14th Street Pub, 350 E. 14 Mile Rd., Madison Heights. Friday & Saturday. Through Aug 27. $39.50 includes three-course dinner. 248-390-5443. http://www.starbriteprod.com.
The Bottom Line: It ain’t rocket science – nor is it great science fiction – but it sure is fun!
Preview: ‘As You Like It’
Peace, love and Shakespeare comes to Starr Jaycee Park
If you’re cruising past Royal Oak’s Starr Jaycee Park over the next few weeks and notice a group of hippies wandering about, don’t panic; you’re not having a flashback. They’re just actors from Water Works Theatre Company’s fifth annual Shakespeare in the Park!
And a better setting for this year’s production – “As You Like It” – couldn’t be found!
“I’ve long thought that setting ‘As You Like It’ in the early ’60s works well with the play,” Director Terry Carpenter told Curtain Calls last week. “Last year, when I was stage managing ‘Twelfth Night’ and we moved to the park and I saw the grove of trees, I thought that this is the ideal setting for Orlando to hang all of his love poems on the trees – because he could do it, literally, on all the trees here!”
So Carpenter pitched his idea to Ed Nahhat, Water Works’ founder and executive director, but with one caveat. “You should let me direct it.”
What Carpenter didn’t know, however, was that the show was already on Nahhat’s short list of potential projects. So with a director and concept now on board, the show was green-lighted for this summer.
Placing the show in the early ’60s seems to make sense – especially to those of us old enough to recall the era.
“Most of the characters are young, and they run away from the more restrictive court to live in the Forest of Arden where they try to find themselves, and that’s sort of what young people did in the early sixties,” Carpenter said. “They left the establishment and went to live in the park, in the commune or on the streets.”
Although all of the actors bought in to the concept, most weren’t born in time to have actually experienced the period. So Carpenter provided them with a timeline that highlighted the era’s cultural and political life. “It’s almost as removed a time for them as if we had set it within Shakespeare’s lifetime,” he said.
The show’s themes, however, are universal. “It’s love, lust and children rebelling against their parents. It’s timeless.”
It’s also a comedy filled with mistaken identities and disguises – and it’s suitable for all ages. “Almost everybody finds love, and the audience can leave thinking that everyone’s going to live happily ever after,” Carpenter said. “We have our doubts about some of the couples, but at least the play ends on a positive note!”
Water Works Theatre Company’s production of “As You Like It” runs Thursday through Sunday, July 28 through Aug. 7 at Starr Jaycee Park, 1101 West 13 Mile Rd., Royal Oak. Tickets are $20. For complete information, call 248-399-3727 or log on tohttp://www.waterworkstheatre.com.