By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
This is French farce as it should be—light, sweet and flaky as a Ladurée pastry and every bite scrumptious. The plot is concocted from the usual ingredients in the Feydeau cookbook, including some mistaken identities, heaps of marital infidelity, a few carefully placed backflips, pratfalls and swoons, and wordplay about a character named Tay-Tay having a tête-á-tête and saying ta-ta.
Directed by Regan Adair with special attention to diction and to the lickety-split rhythms that make such comedy work, Trick doesn't miss one. Leading lady Emily Gray, playing Angele, a remarried widow who suspects her new hubby, Ribadier (Neil Carpenter), is fooling around, is wonderful, hustling her enormous bustle all over the stage in hilarious faux hysteria. Ribadier tries to assure her that he's faithful, but she knows otherwise, having consulted a journal kept by her first husband that details the many lies and excuses a man uses when he's really getting some on the side. Example: An "executive board meeting" is the euphemism for "orgy."
Staying one step ahead of his missus, Ribadier resorts to hypnosis, putting Angele in a deep sleep every time he steps out. But his system is thrown out of whack by the arrival of an old suitor, Thommereaux (Mark Shum), who's returned from a stint in Java and can't get his fill of Angele. Wearing glasses from the Mr. Magoo collection, Thommereaux makes a silly spectacle of himself in every scene.
Every Trick in the Book continues through December 10 at Arts Centre Theatre in Plano, 214-505-1655.
In the smallest but funniest role, a clumsy coachman who chases Angele's chambermaid, the rubber-limbed Matt Lyle invents ingenious ways to trip over and into every chair, table, windowsill and doorway on Jennifer Owen's elegant, heart-themed drawing room set. Finally, hampered by two arms in slings and other injuries, Lyle turns a doorknob with his toe and pulls it shut with his teeth, a move straight out of the Dick Van Dyke school of comedy brilliance.
This is arguably CAC's best production yet and certainly their best-looking one. Costume designer Aaron Turner drapes Gray's hourglass figure in yards of lush red and green silks and dresses the men in handsome velvet smoking jackets and well-fitted waistcoats. Even the shoes are divine.
Numbed by all the recent shows about murderers, I relished every giddy minute of Every Trick in the Book, a comedy perfectly timed to chase all the blues away.