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Performing Arts

Dark humour

Set in ‘60s London, Jewel Box plays with light to spice up the one-act comedy.

Eric Webb February 1st, 2012

Black Comedy
8:00 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 12th
Jewel Box Theatre
3700 N. Walker
$12 - $17


A one act by Peter Shaffer (“Equus,” “Amadeus”) set during the mid-1960s in London, “Black Comedy” focuses on a momentous night in the life of struggling artist Brindsley Miller.

He’s due to meet a prospective buyer for his work in the presence of his fiancé’s disapproving father. Things go off the rails when a fuse is blown, leaving the entire building in the dark, cleverly presented in Jewel Box Theatre’s reverse-lighting scheme.

Because the characters cannot see for most of the play, physical comedy features prominently, fairly well-staged by director Richard Lemin. The high point arrives when Brindsley attempts to switch furniture while navigating a dark room full of people. The near-misses and pratfalls are crowd-pleasers to be sure, but a few characterizations could have used more attention.

Dalton Thomas throws himself into the physically demanding role of Brindsley with abandon. Even when his accent fades, his conviction doesn’t. While keeping others in the dark is an obvious metaphor at work, Thomas’ performance sells some of the more dubious revelations about his character.

In turn, others’ responses to these reveals feel delayed, giving the ending a feeling of coming from nowhere, tonally speaking.

There are a lot of reasons to believe that Heidi Sue Wallace will grow into a solid performance in the role of Brindsley’s debutante bride-to-be, Carol Melkett, but on the second night of the production, she was having trouble with her lines. Rachael Messer makes a strong impression in her ruthlessly playful turn as Brindsley’s troublemaking ex.

Armed with excellent comic timing, Deborah Franklin delivers one the strongest performances as the prim and proper Miss Furnival. Kingsley Adams is great as the blustery Colonel Melkett, earning laughs with his unique system of navigating darkness.

Taylor Harris towers over the cast as an imposing, antique-dealing gay neighbor. Obviously designed to be a little scamp, he has fun with the part, providing some needed contrast.

James Gordon is instantly lovable as a philosophy-reading German electrician. John Ferguson, aka Count Gregore, gets a lot of laughs in a brief cameo as a wealthy art collector.

The costumes are well-suited, while lighting effects are well-timed. The set is a step up from “Flaming Idiots,” but made use of a lot of secondhand furniture and dressing, not all of which felt period-appropriate.

Despite this, “Black Comedy” is broadly appealing, bolstered by some delightful performances.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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