March 17 2010 12:00 AM

’Opal’s Husband’ is predictable farce


The Starlight Dinner Theater is virtually immune to theater criticism for the same reason as summer blockbusters: It has a built-in audience. Their latest production, “Opal’s Husband,” never aims to be more than artistically clear, formulaic comic fare. Fortunately Starlight’s audience members do not expect anything more, and so a Review happy and lucrative middle ground is met.

To judge “Opal’s Husband” on its performances and script alone is to see a play in need of considerable refinement. To see it within the context of dinner with friends and personable strangers is to have an experience beyond criticizing.

“Opal’s Husband,” written by John Patrick, is one of a series of plays based around the character of Opal. This particular script involves Opal setting up her best friend with a husband. Personal ads can be deceiving and, of course, nothing goes as planned.

With a script that virtually directs itself, there was very little for director Lisa Sodman Elzinga to do; she seemed more than happy to oblige. Apart from coordinating physical scuffles, there is little in this show that feels touched by someone with experience from Purple Rose and Second City.

Bill Woodland conversely has designed an exquisitely tacky yet user-friendly set that matches the tone of the play perfectly with loud, mismatched everything. Costume designer Gwendolyn Conarton provides some of the most atrocious yet perfect clothing choices, with colors and fabrics that could not seem more random if they were determined by rolling dice.

Jane Zussman reprises her role of Opal, the middle-aged
single woman with wisdom pulled from cynical wall plaques, from past
Starlight productions. Zussman looks perfectly comfortable inher familiar role, playing to the audience even when conversing with other characters in the play.

Winifred Olds as Opal’s best friend, Rosie Montefalco, never takes the bait. Olds is deadly straight and serious, reconstructing the fourth wall that Zussman continually breaks, making her by far the most empathetic, sincere, and funniest character in the play.

The suitor/nursing home fugitive Captain Mooney, played by Mark Zussman, has some of the best lines. It is a shame he forgets so many in the second act. The actor
shuffles around with a crooked back and missing teeth, but he still
never seems 95 years old, which his character is supposed to be.

Ross chews the scenery as Captain Mooney’s greedy, “hand-wringing”
daughter, Velma Lemon. Ross paints devilish grins on her face, but she
seems more in on the joke than into the character, leaving the main
threat feeling quite hollow. Dan Pappas is much stronger as her
dim-witted husband Otis. Their plans are certainly devious, but their
setup lacks the timing to illicit any real suspense.

essence, the cast appears to be having a blast the entire time, and
their enthusiasm was matched by a standing ovation from Friday night’s
packed crowd.

’Opal’s Husband’

Starlight Dinner Theatre
Dinner at 6:30 p.m.; show begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 19 and
Saturday, March 20 $30 dinner and show, $25 seniors and students $15
show only Waverly East Intermediate School, 3131 W. Michigan Ave. (517)