Some call the genre farce, others melodrama. Riverwalk Theatre’s current production of “Lily, The Felon’s Daughter,” however, lacks the buffoonery and exaggerative bluster to qualify for one or the other.
It’s hard to resurrect a theater chestnut about the gay nineties, and why bother.
Especially when it’s been done more than a handful of times over the years in mid-Michigan theater venues.
Walking into the theater, one observes Bob Nees’ intricate set design, a highly convincing Victorian-era sitting room. Exotic set dressing by Carol Ferris and unique properties provided by Sharon Straubel and Althea Phillips, contribute nuance and subtlety.
Soon after, Jacqueline Payne enters, costumed as Mrs. Bloodgood, a landlord with a broom, to announce cleverly an imperative for audience members to silence their cell phones.
As the story begins to unfold, however, the men’s costuming is distracting. In an era of sartorial precision, coat sleeves are too long while pants are both too short and too long. Some suits are wrinkled, sports coats are mismatched by color and black shoes, somehow, are worn with brown clothes.
Jan Ross as Betsy Fairweather, comes onstage, faring much better. Her magenta gown is resplendent with a subtle design, but this is contrasted by the drape-shroud of the dress worn by Lily, her daughter (played by Monica Holland).
One is finally brought back to the story by Tom Klunzinger as “Rob and Steal” (Robin Steele), whose characterization of a petty thief comes right out of Oliver Twist.
Riverwalk’s program suggests that several actors are making their debut on the Riverwalk stage. It shows. This production of “Lily,” is a tedious decaffeinated version of a melodrama.
There are moments that are amusing.
Two actors squint to read the inscription on a wedding ring. They keep describing paragraph after paragraph of what they suggest is written inside the ring. Ha!
Jim Coyer is Craven Sinclair, the designated villain. He slinks across the stage effectively, twirling his moustache in a most dastardly manner. Newcomer Candace Seymour Myers, in a bit part as Mrs. Kingsley, steals the stage in her two moments of local fame.
In the final analysis, one questions the need to dredge back up an outdated form of theater, but if one does? Make it work.
“Lily, The Felon’s Daughter”
March 15-18 & March 22-25 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Location: 228 Museum Dr., Lansing Price: $10 (adults) $8 (children) www.riverwalktheatre.com