Warren Gerds

Eric D. Westphal, from left, Lisa Iapalucci, Sierra Gillespie, Aaron Kornowski and Carrie Bruce are the cast of Green Bay Community Theater's "Funny Valentines."

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Green Bay Community Theater comedy well-timed in many waysGreen Bay Community Theater

Eric D. Westphal, from left, Lisa Iapalucci, Sierra Gillespie, Aaron Kornowski and Carrie Bruce are the cast of Green Bay Community Theater's "Funny Valentines."

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GREEN BAY, Wis. - Clocks. The immediate temptation is to count the clocks in the set of Green Bay Community Theater’s presentation of “Funny Valentines” that is continuing for six more performances at the troupe’s Robert Lee Brault Playhouse.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…

Clocks are on the walls of an apartment in Manhattan.

Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen…

Clocks are placed between books and an array of novelty stuff on shelves that dominate all the walls. The stuff has the visual pop that would be part of the life of a visual artist, such as the main character of this play.

Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty…

Clocks show the time to be whatever the time was when they stopped.

Twenty-one…

That’s as many clocks as I could spot from my seat. There likely are more.

With those many clocks, naturally they come into play in the story: Andy Robbins (Eric D. Westphal) lives alone in the apartment because he didn’t wind the clocks. Andy hasn’t put the finishing touches on becoming an adult who takes responsibility. The not-winding of clocks was one of the reasons his wife, Ellen (Sierra Gillespie), divorced him.

The audience meets Andy on the day that playwright D.R. Anderson has devised that four people will show up in Andy’s apartment.

+ First comes Andy’s agent, Howard Levy (Aaron Kornowski), with a contract that will make Andy rich for the series of children’s books with Beanie the bear that he illustrated. Eventually, Howard’s motto that honesty is not always the best policy worms its way into the plot.

+ Next on the scene is Zan Wilkinson (Carrie Bruce), the production director for the company that will televise and promote and use Beanie galore. The meeting between Andy and Zan ends in a clinch. “Funny Valentines” is a sex comedy, too.

+ Arriving next is Ellen. Howard led Ellen to believe that she would collaborate with Andy on more Beanie books. Howard led Andy to believe that Ellen would have to sign the contract that will reap boundless treasure for all. In the meeting, Ellen runs through a laundry list of Andy’s failings. That she is 8½ months pregnant with Andy’s child is something else she drops on him (just one of the unbelievable bits in this script).

+ Eventually arriving is Ellen’s mother, Mrs. Winslowe (Lisa Iapalucci), a breath of freshness in her normalcy. All around are lying and scheming and twitching and turning, and she is a regular person.

One of the interesting things of this production is how director Monty Witt’s occupation influences it. Witt is a professional magician, which involves continual honing and honing and fine tuning and practice and paying close attention to timing down to the instant. It is discipline, big time. Not to say that everything is perfect, but this cast gives off the aura of confidence in character that comes with discipline. The production clicks and clicks with comedic timing. Moments with Bruce, Gillespie, Kornowski and Westphal find the players on the same wave length. There is no magic in the show, just the same sort of attention to detail that could be called on to help a play be well-played.

More obviously notable in this production is its man of one-thousand expressions, Eric D. Westphal. Andy is thrown into many awkward moments, and Westphal has a comedic kaleidoscope of facial reactions for all. His is a rubber-faced tour de force.

The title “Funny Valentines”? That comes from the greeting cards – silly things – that Andy would send Ellen that would cause her to laugh spontaneously. The title is mostly cute. The clocks are another matter in this energy-stoked show.

***

Creative: Playwright – D.R. Anderson; director – Monty Witt; stage manager – Chris Weiss; head carpenter – Noah Villarreal; set dresser/designer – Sandy Zochert; lighting and sound designer – Peter Wojtowicz; costume designer – Sara Marks; properties designer – Karen Konshak; hair/make-up designer – Carolyn Bruce

Cast: Andy Robbins – Eric D. Westphal; Howard Levy – Aaron Kornowski; Zan Wilkinson; Carrie Bruce; Ellen Robbins – Sierra Gillespie; Mrs. Winslowe – Lisa Iapalucci

Running time: Two hours

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21, 22, 23; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24; 2 p.m. Feb. 25

Info: gbcommunitytheater.com

***

NEXT: “Born Yesterday” by Garson Kanin, April 19-21, 25-29.

THE VENUE:  A landmark on Green Bay’s west side, the 193-seat Robert Lee Brault Playhouse features elements of an earlier time as a church, built in 1854 (the current backstage dressing room), 1895 (auditorium) and 1911 (today’s Community Room). The most obvious remnants are the church’s peaked side-wall windows with stained glass that is covered. High-up triangular windows still contain stained glass, and their patterns can be seen playing on sunny days when the troupe has matinees. The auditorium includes a 30 by 23-foot open-end stage with no stage curtain. The troupe has remodeled some portions of the building with medieval touches, but the seating area retains elements of a church. The theater includes wooden arches with decorative geometric designs on the ends and exposed beams in the sharply angled ceiling. The stage front consists of woodwork of repeated arches that looks to be repurposed wainscoting from other parts of the building. The troupe owns the building, which became its home in 1966. The Community Room serves as a gathering space for audiences prior to a performance and at intermission and for board and other internal meetings.

THE PERSON:  Larger-than-life personality Robert Lee Brault was a longtime Green Bay Community Theater actor, director, scenic designer and managing director. He and his wife, Rita Brault, were mainstays from the time the troupe performed at various locations through the purchase of the present playhouse. Bob Brault died Nov. 1, 2015, in Florida at age 88.

Contact me at i">>warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

Source : http://www.wearegreenbay.com/critic-at-large-wearegreenbay/warren-gerdscritic-at-large-review-green-bay-community-theater-comedy-well-timed-in-many-ways/980051839

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