Elden Street Players Dirty Rotten ScoundrelsBy Genie Baskir • Aug 7th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Elden Street Players
Industrial Strength Theater, Herndon, VA
Through August 25th
2:30 with one intermission
Reviewed August 3rd, 2012
Two confidence artists (Tom Flatt, Nathan Tatro) meet up at a gambling resort on the southern coast of France and engage in competition to defraud wealthy American women…the prize being the exclusive and limited, but very lucrative, territory which is big enough for only one fraudster. When the two originally meet Lawrence (Flatt) is an aging but still smooth and polished imposter masquerading as an exiled Eurotrash Prince romancing rich women up and down the coast. Freddy (Tatro) is a coarse and petty grifter riding the Trains de Merveilles with stories of his sick grandmother, prompting women to offer him cash. Spoiler alert: That the two tricksters could be trumped by another (Annie Ermlick) never occurs to them and the comedy radiates in circles of mirth and laughter from that turn of events.
Such is the thesis for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, presented by the always dependable and original Elden Street Players. The show is a theatrical adaptation of a 1988 film of the same name, which itself is a remake of the 1964 film Bedtime Stories. The adaptation by Jeffrey Lane, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, builds upon the 1980’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” ethos which was at the heart of the namesake film. The musical is an affectionate potch on the tuches of Broadway schmaltz, venerating the institution, while poking fun at the musical details with numbers such as “Great Big Stuff” and “Love is My Legs.” The music is elite Broadway orchestration while the lyrics are profoundly Avenue Q.
Flatt is positively Nathan Lanesque in his machinations as the aging, but still ambitious, Lawrence. He is light on his feet and deft with his delivery as the fraudulent Prince of Some Unknown Minor Principality, by way of Detroit. His second, Andre (Patrick McMahan), is the local police chief and keeper of the graft. There is no arguing that McMahan doesn’t steal the show from the magnetic Flatt and the adorable Tatro. McMahan is positively gleeful in his portrayal of the amoral public servant and accomplice. All three are serious in their presentations yet maintain the twinkles in their respective eyes as the narrative advances. Tatro is by turns tentative and frolicsome as he develops his character. Director Michael Kharfen keeps the action light and fluffy never taking any of this too seriously. Kharfen is out to make the audience laugh while building affection for the characters and he succeeds beyond his own imagination. This is the same Michael Kharfen who was so affecting as Shelly Levene in Eldens Street’s Glengarry Glen Ross.
The marked women are positively giddy with classic comic elements and skills equal to the male principles. Teri Allred as Jolene and Janette Moman as Muriel literally sparkle as the two wealthy marks who nearly manage to wrangle their phony prince to the altar. Moman and McMahan a deux confirm the show’s bona fides as a terrific soiree and un fou de rire. The supporting cast which includes the always dependable Ivan Davila and Jerry Hoffman were equal to the principles in this show. Davila has a scene stealing comic presence on stage that he capitalizes on by dressing like Britney Spears in one scene. I thought I’d plotz when he danced out on the gorgeous (Set Designer James Villarrubia) stage in his midriff top. The set is a masterpiece of scenic painting (Kate Meier, Karl Meier) and the floor is a testament to detail.
But the unseen stars of this show are the Costume Designers, Judy Whelihan and Kathy Dunlap who engineered a plethora of costume changes that were as efficient and numerous as the set changes. A good show is a product of not just the actors and Director, but the designers who engineer the appearance and facilitation of the narrative. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a very large show in a small theatre and the accomplishments of the costumers and the stage crew make the finished product even more impressive and this was opening night. Kharfen’s deft hand and his staff’s and crew’s skills approach a level of professionalism far above the community theatre designation. The musical accompaniment was delightful and if these musicians are amateurs, I didn’t hear it. The choreography started out in an amateurish fashion but developed into very sophisticated and clever combinations as the show advanced. I think the small space of the stage contributed to the simplicity of the beginning combinations.
Altogether, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the pinnacle of local theatre: professional at its core with its heart in the neighborhood. C’est fantastique!
Welcome to the French Riviera! As we’re presenting you a show about con artists, it is appropriate to start off this note with a con that you are in France rather than Herndon. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is about a seasoned and a novice con man vying in a winner take all competition to see which one will succeed in swindling an American heiress. Others get into the act and the $50,000.00 question is who will win and who will get conned. Con men put on a mask and see inside people as to what they want, which is sort of like theatre. But before I sound too serious, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is anything but-it is irreverently fun and lacks any self consciousness. Another con is that you’re seeing a musical of a movie. The story got its start as Bedtime Story in 1964 with David Niven, Marlon Brando and Shirley Jones. It was remade as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in 1988 with Michael Caine and Steve Martin. These days lots of movies are made into musicals. In our production we embrace the film inspiration for the show, so see if you can find other references to movies. What I love about musicals is that they free (or con) you from everyday worries; celebrate the crafts of writing, music and movement; and most of all, they entertain. My final con is to convince you to forget your troubles, come on get happy and let the scoundrels chase all your cares away.
I am grateful to Elden Street Players, the Board and Angie Anderson for their support and the opportunity to direct this show. This production would not have been possible without the tremendous talent and dedication of so many scoundrels: a gifted and crazy cast, AnnMarie’s brilliant lighting, Stan and the guys’ super sound, Judy’s colorful costumes, Trevor’s perfect props, Fred’s spectacular set dressing, Karl and Kate’s peerless painting and Christine’s marvelous makeup and hair. For every performance, I’m thankful to the crew for their hard work. Big Thanks to James for his ingenious set. And then there are the con artists: Matt for his wonderful schmancing, Scott for his incomparable music direction, Don for gracefully making the trains and people run on time and Jeff and Richard for assembling a superb team, skillfully building the set and handling every detail with patience a d excellence.
- Lawrence: Tom Flatt
- Freddy: Nathan Tatro
- Christine: Annie Ermlick
- Andre: Patrick McMahan
- Muriel: Janette Moman
- Jolene: Teri Allred
- Ensemble: Ivan Davila, Bri Eul, Lisa Freese, Patrick Graham, Becca Harney, Jerry Hoffman, Holly McDade, Karl Meier
- Co-Producers: Jeff Boatwright, Richard Durkin
- Director: Michael Kharfen
- Music Director: Scott Richards
- Choreographer: Matt Anderson
- Stage Manager: Don Petersen
- Set Design: James Villarrubia
- Scenic Painting: Kate Meier, Karl Meier
- Tree Construction: Mary Speed, Brian Garrison
- Costume Design: Judy Whelihan, Kathy Dunlap
- Light Design: AnnMarie Castrigno
- Properties and Set Dressing: Trevor Johnston
- Sound Design: Stan Harris
- Hair and Makeup Design: Christine Spata
Disclaimer: Elden Street Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8404.
Genie Baskir is a theatrical producer. She worked in radio production and direction for many years and gravitated to theatre when family members became involved with the stage.