Gags galore in this old-fashioned farce

  • Article by: WILLIAM RANDALL BEARD , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 2, 2012 - 8:09 PM

REVIEW: Great comic timing and a scene-stealing cast keep this Don Stolz-directed chestnut squarely on the laugh track.

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"A Perfect Wedding": Heidi Fellner, Joseph Papke, Debi Kilde, Aaron cook, Peggy O'Connell and Judith Heneghan.

Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp, Star Tribune

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Old Log Theater owner Don Stolz knows his audience and has been serving it well for more than 70 years. His current offering, "A Perfect Wedding" by Robin Hawdon, is a strong example of classic farce, and is acted by a near ideal ensemble.

In the grand tradition of cockamamie plots, a groom wakes up on his wedding day in bed with a strange woman. In order to hide her from his fiancée, he passes her off as the chambermaid. It then becomes necessary to pass off the real chambermaid as his best man's girlfriend. Soon, one of the women is confused with a call girl. The complications multiply.

This old-fashioned play takes great delight in being naughty. But Hawdon's strength is his ability to maintain comic tension, carrying the audience along. And while the ending is telegraphed early on, it is nonetheless satisfying.

As a director, Stolz has no shame. There is no bit of business, no matter how broad, that he won't use. But in his masterful hands, they always seem fresh and engaging. This is a fast-paced farce and the laughs come fast and furious.

Joseph Papke is perfect for the role of the befuddled groom. He's an expert at mugging, but there's always a sincerity behind it. And he's a master at pratfalls and physical comedy. But even amid the most outrageous gags, he maintains a charming likability.

Aaron Cook, as the stiff-upper-lip best man, makes a fine foil for Papke, especially when he eventually explodes.

As the domineering bride, Debi Kilde has the bearing of a young Kate Hudson, but with better comic timing.

Heidi Fellner has a thankless role as the unknown girl, basically acting as straight man to the craziness, but manages to make her comic presence felt.

But it's Judith Heneghan, as the smart-alecky chambermaid, who steals the show with her grandly over-the-top performance. And Peggy O'Connell offers a fine cameo as the dimwitted mother of the bride.

At age 95, Stolz is still atop his game. At this rate, we may have many more years of great theater from him.

William Randall Beard writes regularly about theater.

  • A PERFECT WEDDING

    Who: By Robin Hawdon. Directed by Don Stolz.

    When: 8 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 1:30 p.m. most Wed.-Thu., and 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Feb. 9, 2013.

    Where: Old Log Theater, Old Log Way, Excelsior.

    Tickets: $22-$32; 952-474-5951 or www.oldlog.com.

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