L.A. waiver theaters do not often perform large-cast farcical classics, which is one good reason to catch French master Georges Feydeau’s “There’s One in Every Marriage” as staged by what’s turning out to be Los Angeles’ classics rejuvenator, the Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble.
With PRTE’s theater next to the Helms Bakery Building torn down to make way for a parking lot, the ensemble appears for this show at the Gascon Center Theatre in the Helms Bakery Building.
The group provides nearly three hours of hilarity. The play, staged in the round, bubbles with such ingredients as switched suitcases, mistaken identities, a number of doors, a deaf wife, sleeping medicine and passionate ardor.
Lucienne Vatelin (Martha Hackett), the wife of attorney Clovis Vatelin (Geoffrey Lower), declares that if she ever caught her husband cheating she would take a lover instantly in revenge. Two men hear her — Pontagnac (Matt McKenzie) and Roubillion (Michael Rothhaar) — and both want to be her lover.
Clovis’ one-and-only dalliance, Ulla from Sweden (Alley Mills), threatens suicide unless they meet. Ulla’s husband (Joseph Cardinale) and Pontagnac plot to catch them in the act.
Feydeau places his extramarital intrigues into a well-constructed plot with complex deceptions. Thanks to translators Suzanne Grossman and Paxton Whitehead, who pepper conversation with modern slang, the play sounds and feels contemporary.
From the opening moments, directors Stephanie Shroyer and Marilyn Fox make the evening theatrical. They pack a great deal of action onto the small performance area, aided by Matthew C. Jacobs’ clever set design, which allows furniture and props to appear in an instant.
Many in the cast of 15 are ideal. Mills’ mangling of English is delightful. Orson Bean takes the third act to an extra height with his hilarious perf as a cynical butler.
While McKenzie doesn’t come off as “the greatest ladies’ man in Paris,” he brings his character enough comic expression that one suspends disbelief.
Rothhaar plays Roubillion at first as an innocent, but by play’s end he’s a Lothario. Telford portrays a deaf woman with blissful innocence, while Gretchen Oehler adds abundant libido to her role.
Clearly, the Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble loves theater for theater’s sake. The members need only to find a permanent home.