Recently, while rummaging in an old sock drawer, the fine folks at Apple Hill Playhouse found a copy of Michael McKeever's farce Suite Surrender. Where the less stalwart might have returned it to the drawer and tiptoed backward out of the room, Apple Hill instead decided to produce it.
OK, I admit parts of that story are total fabrication, but I needed something to occupy my mind during the (many) slow parts of Suite Surrender. And coming up with a reason why we were all there seemed as good an endeavor as any.
It's ridiculous being too hard on this third-rate play, since McKeever and Apple Hill want only to entertain you. Every now and again, director Thom McLaughlin and a few members of his cast manage to rise out of the puddle of blandness and achieve something like genuine comedy, but it doesn't happen nearly enough.
McKeever sets his 2008 play in a lavish 1942 Palm Beach hotel suite. Two Hollywood divas — Claudia McFadden and Athena Sinclair — have come to town to appear at a benefit concert for the war effort. These two hate each other like poison and, no matter what, they absolutely, positively cannot be allowed to meet. You'll be as surprised as I was when the two women, for reasons Neil deGrasse Tyson couldn't parse, end up staying in the same suite ... each unaware the other is in the other bedroom.
Laugh? I thought I'd pee my pants!
McKeever seems intent on recreating Ken Ludwig's hugely popular farce Lend Me a Tenor. The setting, a couple of the characters, even some of the plot feels, um, quite similar to that show. McKeever does what he can to mimic Tenor's frantic mania, but never comes close. And even in a genre as illogical as farce, Suite strains credulity well past the breaking point. If the inner world of the show is fake, then what's at stake for the characters isn't real either. And, in comedy, if there are no stakes, there are no laughs.
On Richard Caugherty's lovely set, Stephen Young, Pat Beyer, Brianna Downs and Alexandra Swartz lead an enjoyable cast. They do what they can. God bless 'em.