Regional Theater Review: Laughter warms you up at Act II Playhouse
ACT II Playhouse describes A Few of Our Favorite Things as “a glorious grab bag of sketches and songs” to which I fully agree. On a dark, dank, and cold night, I was privileged to attend Opening Night of Favorite Things on Ambler’s famous Butler Pike. This joyful night of comedy warmed me right up!
Philadelphia staples, Tony Braithwaite (Act II Artistic Director) and Jennifer Childs, star in this two-person cabaret/sketch comedy act. Running a quick 65 minutes with no intermission, the two of them gave charming performances. This dynamic duo collaborated on several projects including three other “grab bag” productions. It is clear the chemistry has been sizzling for some time as their back and forth banter was seamless. There is no telling the difference between what was scripted and what was improv.
The theme of A Few of Our Favorite Things (directed by Mary Carpenter) is an homage to comedy and vintage comedy acts and icons. Such as, Carol Burnett, Burns & Allen, Don Knotts, Nichols & May, Tom Lehr, among many others. Tough acts to follow, indeed. The setting was a rehearsal room style venue. Maroon walls, doors, and windows, with accoutrements that paid homage to comedians with album covers, marionettes, and hats. Designed by Dirk Durossette, it seemed the set decorations were forced and needed more embellishments to make it feel like a worn in work room.
Braithwaite and Childs’ passion for these veterans of stage and screen is evident in their delivery and performance. The only shortcoming is their lack of physical comedy. Although attempted by Braithwaite more so than Childs, the physicalizing fell short thereby missing several laughs along the way. That was most evident in their throwback to Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca’s sketch, “The Cocktail Party”. That’s not to imply that the evening lacked humor. It was chock full!
“TB and Jenny” are characters created by the dynamic duo and this isn’t the first time these two have been introduced to the public. If SNL still had Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri or Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtain, they would steal this act for themselves. Cruise Ship Lounge Singers…. need I say more? I would pay to see an hour of just these two sprites. It was one laugh after another and another.
As a musical theatre nerd, some of my most “favorite” acts were of songs from Victor/Victoria, My Favorite Year, and “Joey is a Punk Rocker” from The Black Suits played on stage by Owen Robbins on keys. The audience responded the most to the many back stories that Braithwaite and Childs told of comedians’ past. Such as Burnett’s signature ear tug!
When there is theatre as fresh and new as this, it’s a MUST SEE. It will never be recreated or performed by anyone else. It’s simply these two. Right here. Right now. What’s better than an evening at the theatre that also lets out early where you can explore and enjoy the nightlife in Ambler? A perfect date night for a new couple as well as a wonderful trip down memory lane for those celebrating their golden years! Rumor has it that the run is on the verge of a sell-out.
Act II Playhouse, 56. E. Butler Ave. Ambler, PA 19002
Anne Marie holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Kutztown University. She has worked professionally in Philadelphia and Delaware County in stage management, directing, and producing. She is the owner of Nightcap Cabaret, Philadelphia’s philanthropic cabaret company. Over the past 20 years, Anne Marie has worked with Mazeppa Productions, The Walnut Street Theatre, Upper Darby Summer Stage, Encore Entertainment, Rockwell Productions, Media Theater, Players Club of Swarthmore, and Narberth Community Theatre, among others. Anne Marie served as a Barrymore nominator for Theatre Philadelphia for the 16/17 season and currently serves as an adjudicator for Philadelphia Independence Awards.
She is currently Editor-in-chief for Philly Review.
Instagram and Twitter @annemarie0817