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Homeschool Teens n Theatre My Friend Irma

By • Apr 18th, 2010 • Category: Cappies

Meet Irma. She’s ditzy, airheaded, entirely oblivious to the world around her, and just about the nicest person you could hope to know. The audience of Homeschool Teens n Theatre’s My Friend Irma got the chance to become acquainted with the titular character and, at the same time, experience a downright zany comedy.

The play, based on a popular radio show from the 1940’s, follows the misadventures of Irma (Chanukah Jane Lilburne), a naïve but kind young woman living in New York, and her best friend Jane (Lauren Petrey), the patient soul forced to put up with her companion’s antics. Al (Zak Gordon), Irma’s boyfriend and a bit of a con man, has come up with the latest of his get-rich-quick schemes, this one involving his cartoonist friend, Don Turner (Anson Rutherford). Don wants to put Irma and her quirks in his latest work and is willing to pay big bucks, but hilarity ensues when Irma begins to develop feelings for the artist, greatly complicating matters for everyone.

Lilburne carried the show as Irma, striking a perfectly delicate balance between the character’s charm and unawareness. It would be an easy trap to make this role annoying or grating, and yet, utilizing her talent and charisma, Lilburne managed to make herself endearing. With a certain dazed airiness to her movement and voice, she capitalized on the witty premise of the show, creating a delightful character seemingly torn straight from a sitcom.

Petrey’s Jane was an entertaining foil to Lilburne’s Irma, performing confidently in the position of straight woman. Petrey was dry and sarcastic in her delivery, contrasting nicely with Lilburne’s over-the-top style, and together, they developed a strong and believable chemistry. Rutherford played the unwitting Don, led into a situation with Irma that quickly takes some wild twists. Rutherford was appropriately nervous and introverted in his turn, and was not harmed by this often dangerous choice, but rather stood out for it.

The show did have some flaws that the cast had to work to overcome. At times, actors covered mistakes well and in character, but broke from their roles at other points, which distracted from the plot and hurt the show’s pacing. While some parts were richly and fully developed, others were weaker and lacked the same depth. The difficult accents in the play led to issues with diction and volume, making it hard at times to follow the wackiness of the show. However, the ensemble worked through most of its issues to produce many laughs.

The set was simple yet effective, evoking a traditional New York apartment. Photos hung on the walls, precisely tilted to 45 degree angles, helped build Irma’s eccentric style and added an amusing touch to the comedy.

Ultimately, Teens n Theatre produced a light afternoon of entertainment that brought the flaky girl from the radio to the stage. You wouldn’t necessarily want to live with Irma and have to put up with her stunts, but it was certainly fun to spend an afternoon with her.

Review submitted by Chris Papas of Oakton High School.

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