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Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot

Australia's foremost contemporary dramatist, David Williamson, has fashioned a lightweight star-vehicle for popular and versatile local thesp Caroline O'Connor in "Scarlett O'Hara at the Crimson Parrot," a mostly enjoyable romantic comedy about a movie-struck klutz waiting on tables and dreaming of a fantasy lovelife.

With:
Scarlett - Caroline O'Connor Alan - Matt Day Steve - Andrew McFarlane Maureen - Monica Maughan Gary - Simon Wood Shelley - Marney McQueen Gordon - Bob Hornery

Australia’s foremost contemporary dramatist, David Williamson, has fashioned a lightweight star-vehicle for popular and versatile local thesp Caroline O’Connor (who did stints on Broadway as Velma Kelly in “Chicago”) in “Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot,” a mostly enjoyable romantic comedy about a movie-struck klutz waiting on tables and dreaming of a fantasy lovelife.

O’Connor’s Scarlett is just past her mid-30s and constantly nagged at home by a domineering and overly dependent monster-mom, Maureen (a hilarious turn from venerable Australian stage icon Monica Maughan).

Meanwhile at work, her accident-prone mishaps prompt “final-final” warnings from chef-boss Steve (the always personable Andrew McFarlane), who reluctantly keeps her on because she’s well-liked by the clientele at his under-patronized eatery specializing in exotic indigenous fare.

Scarlett’s self-deprecating quips and all-elbows body-language work their kooky charms on dorky customer Alan (an ill-at-ease Matt Day), who occasionally bolts from the restaurant without any apparent reason. Our daffy heroine, however, thinks she’s amorously destined for stressed-out Steve whose wife just left him.

This predictable, ho-hum premise is boosted by the show’s two strongest cards.

First and foremost: There’s a bravura central performance (which recalls the best of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett) from an indefatigable leading lady who trips, stumbles, fumbles, falls and wisecracks her way across Shaun Gurton’s smartly designed set and into the audience’s collective heart.

Second, some genuinely inspired back-projected images of Hollywood classics from “Gone With the Wind” and “Casablanca” to “Calamity Jane” are wittily utilized throughout, often ingeniously incorporating the play’s protags (a la “Zelig” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo”) into the cinematic action to chucklesome effect.

Supporting thesps Bob Hornery, Marney McQueen and Simon Wood flesh out the cast as the stereotyped old gay dishwasher, flighty kitchen slut, and Mediterranean gigolo cook, respectively, with confidence and flair under director Simon Phillips’ assured steerage.

However, in the end, all that’s cooked up here by the once-savagely satirical cordon-bleu master-playwright of “Don’s Party,” “The Removalists,” “Emerald City” and “Brilliant Lies” is a reasonably pleasant-tasting piece of puff-pastry (aka: another Caroline O’Connor showcase) — which nonetheless went down well with the loud-laughing first-nighters.

Scarlett O'Hara at the Crimson Parrot

The Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre 849 Seats A$75.30 ($71) Top

Production: MELBOURNE A Melbourne Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by David Williamson. Directed by Simon Phillis.

Creative: Sets and costumes, Shaun Gurton; lighting, Matt Scott; musical direction, Ian McDonald; audiovisual designs, Josh Burns; production stage manager, Alyson Brown. Opened, reviewed June 11, 2008. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Scarlett - Caroline O'Connor Alan - Matt Day Steve - Andrew McFarlane Maureen - Monica Maughan Gary - Simon Wood Shelley - Marney McQueen Gordon - Bob Hornery

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