Arts & Culture

Cambria’s Pewter Plough gets ‘Naughty’ with this revealing comedy

“Nana’s Naughty Knickers” runs through March 12 at the Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria.
“Nana’s Naughty Knickers” runs through March 12 at the Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria.

The title of the Pewter Plough Playhouse’s latest production – “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” – lays bare what’s concealed behind closed doors at the Cambria theater.

It’s no spoiler to reveal that Bridget Charles (Rayna Ortiz) discovers her grandmother, Sylvia Charles (Barbara McKee), sells sexy garments on the sly. This tasty tidbit has been used to entice audiences since 2010, when Katherine diSavino’s play was first performed. The fun entails how Bridget frantically attempts to keep others from finding out.

Landlord Gil Schmidt (Gregory Schoonover), who already smells something fishy, seeks any reason to evict Sylvia from her rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan’s East Side.

If the octogenarian gets busted, she’ll lose her home of 40 years, face fines for an unlicensed business or be imprisoned by the IRS for tax evasion.

An aspiring attorney, Bridget is well versed in the legal consequences.

Preventing a frequent visitor, police Officer Tom O’Grady (Derek Ehinger), from catching on is another challenge, but he’s so smitten with Bridget that he’s not paying much attention.

Sylvia’s best friend, the vague and hard-of-hearing Vera Walters (Joyce Calderone) isn’t concerned about getting caught. She keeps her cool in the summer heat by guzzling ice-cold bloody marys.

Once they no longer have to hide their activities from Bridget, the two old gals have a great time showing off their sleazy garments – one of the play’s main charms. When a regular model cancels a photo shoot, they talk a reluctant Bridget into filling in.

After a package filled with kinky sex toys and apparel is delivered, Bridget really goes berserk.

In the second act, Heather Van Pree (Mindy Rains) shows up in hookerlike attire to retrieve the parcel intended for her employer.

The elderly women have never seen someone like Heather close up. It’s hilarious when Vera pokes, prods and fiddles with her bustier like a curious chimpanzee.

Nearly tripping over scattered unmentionables and shipping boxes, the landlord still doesn’t know what’s going on. But when he sets eyes on Heather, the uptight Schmidt smiles for the first time, gleeful that he finally has a legal reason to evict Sylvia.

Alas, his wife, Claire (Barbara Roche), makes her first appearance and swiftly pops his balloon.

The script of “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” contains all the ingredients of good farce: an implausible plot, recognizable characters, misunderstandings, mistaken identity, confusion, chaos, secrecy, potential tragedy and near misses.

If the intercom isn’t buzzing to announce visitors and package deliveries, then someone is knocking at the door or bursting in unannounced. Characters vanish into another room or leave with no explanation.

Costumes play a major role in the show, and except for Tom, who should have been outfitted with a holster, gun, billy club and handcuffs, they are delightful. Rains assembled her own racy outfit, and the senior women either brought garments from home or had their pick of lingerie on loan from thrift stores.

Director Rebecca Buckley and Mika Brazelton designed Sylvia’s tastefully appointed living room, where all the action takes place, including the cleverly hidden closets and drawers where the lingerie is stashed.

Unfortunately, on opening night, static on the intercom made it difficult to fully follow the action. Even worse, shortly after the performance began, the actors vanished, leaving an empty stage, not once, but twice. Minutes ticked by. In live theatre, this is tantamount to “dead air” on the radio.

When these rough spots get ironed out, the play should be as smooth as a satin negligee.

Contact freelance writer Lee Sutter at sutterlee@hotmail.com.

Nana’s Naughty Knickers

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday; through March 12

Pewter Plough Playhouse, 828 Main St., Cambria

$22, $17 students

805-927-3877 or pewterploughplayhouse.org

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