Friday, March 6, 2009

Review - Spring EATFest '09 - The Chiselers (Emerging Artists Theatre)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photo by Ned Thorne

When you are the highest of high society (in Sacramento, that is), it's no surprise that your name is going to appear in the gossip columns, even if you own the paper. But when your family is at the center of the most sensational murder trial of the century (in Sacramento, that is), there is nothing you can do but buckle your seat belt and get ready for a wild ride.

Mark Finley's comic romp through Sacramento high society, follows Margo Carstairs (Karen Stanion), scion of the Carstairs dynasty and famous ice sculptress, as she fights for her freedom after her husband, the dashing newspaperman Chuck Hutchison (Thomas Poarch), is stabbed to death with Margo's ice pick in her frigid studio - a murder that Margo claims not to have committed. Complicating matters is the domineering matriarch of the family, Beverly Carstairs (Marie Wallace), boy toy Julian (Nick Mathews), the lover of both Beverly and Margo, and young Connie (Andrea Alton), a little pitcher with big ears and a diary full of secrets.

The Chiselers is a terrific send up of the excesses of the 1980s that were so lavishly presented on 'Dynasty' and 'Dallas.' But more than that, it is an homage to the wisecracking murder movies of the '30s and '40s. Alexis and Krystle meet Nick and Nora - full of shoulder pads, quips, and martinis.

Finley's play has plenty of twists and turns, and director Melissa Attebery handles them all with aplomb. The Chiselers moves at a fast clip with Attebery finessing every ounce of humor that she can out of script. Laughs come so quickly that the audience often has a hard time catching its breath. Much of this is due to the spectacular performances. Veteran actress Marie Wallace, known for her Broadway roles and work on TV's "Dark Shadows," is excellent as the wily family matriarch - a woman who thinks she can get the best of anyone. Poarch does a marvelous job as the handsome ex-soldier overcome by wealth and power under Beverly corrupting influence. Andrea Alton does well as the naive teenager desperate for attention, especially Julian's attention. And as Julian the gigolo, Nick Mathews proves that his talents are not merely physical, though the physical is certainly nice. The play, however, belongs to Karen Stanion as the mercurial Margo. With razor sharp comic timing, she performs with gusto; her Margo is a tour de force.

Featuring a crackerjack cast capable of pulling off Finley's marvelous dialogue and lightning-fast wisecracks, The Chiselers is an absolute delight from its opening moments to its wonderful twist of an ending.

Written by Mark Finley
Directed by Melissa Attebery
Featuring: Marie Wallace (Beverly Carstairs), Karen Stanion (Margo Carstairs), Andrea Alton (Connie Carstairs), Thomas Poarch (Chuck Hutchinson), Nick Mathews (Julian Kerr)

Production Team
Executive Producer/Artistic Director: Paul Adams
Production Manager: Andrew Ronan
Stage Manager (Series A&B): Alison Carroll
Stage Manager (The Chiselers and Memory River): Terra Vetter
Assistant Stage Manager: Julie Feltman
Set Designer: Tim McMath
Lighting Designer: Jennifer Granrud
Sound Designer (Series A&B): Ned Thorne
Sound Designer (The Chiselers and Memory River): Kristyn R. Smith
Costume Designer: Meredith Neal
Props Master: Sash Gibo
United Stages Liaison: David Bishop

The Chiselers is performed Thursday - Saturday at 9:30 PM, through March 7th

TADA! Youth Theater
15 W. 28th Street