Arts & Culture

Stage: FAMILY MATTERS

From left, David Norum, Lauren Moore, Blake Spiller, Rick Johnson, Kari Wastun, Kelli Rodda and Craig Brooke in Pewter Plough Playhouse’s ‘Finishing Touches.’
From left, David Norum, Lauren Moore, Blake Spiller, Rick Johnson, Kari Wastun, Kelli Rodda and Craig Brooke in Pewter Plough Playhouse’s ‘Finishing Touches.’ PHOTO BY BRETT WHITE

Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse has assembled a fine cast with a mix of familiar faces and young talent for “Finishing Touches,” a witty family saga by Jean Kerr.

The playwright’s big successes, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” and “Mary, Mary,” were written in the 1960s. This one, which came out in 1973, tells a story that some families continue to go through regardless of the time. Anita Schwaber directs, and the dialogue has been updated here and there to make it contemporary.

Katy Cooper, wife of a college professor and mother of two sons, is blindsided by her husband Jeff” s midlife confession that he has become enamored of one of his students.

It’s a familiar scenario. We meet Katy as she serves breakfast to Jeff and their teenage son Kevin, her hair in curlers and wearing a nasty-looking bathrobe. After Kevin goes to school, Jeff tells her about his dilemma and accuses her of holding out in the bedroom.

As she is struggling with her feelings — in Kerr’s clever dialogue — their other son, Steve, visits from college, introducing a stunning girlfriend. The student who is the object of Jeff’s affection also shows up, and Fred, a friend and colleague who rents a place on the Coopers’ property, gets involved and observes it all with wry humor.

In style, the play is a farce, but the emotions are serious, and as it all unfolds it deals with questions of morals and family values. Kerr is part of the Neil Simon era of play-writing, and like Simon she sprinkles the dialogue with nonstop repartee and memorable, often funny lines.

Her characters speak the way we often wish we could respond, but we usually think of such comebacks after the fact ( “I wish I’d said …”). Without her witty style, the story itself could be just another soap opera.

Kelli Rodda is excellent as Katy, and she delivers all the clever lines with natural spontaneity. She has been a Pewter Plough presence in a number of plays, and this one suits her well. Jeff is played by David Norum, who has also been seen in Plough plays, and he and Rodda have often co-starred. He inhabits the character of the befuddled professor as both likable and annoying, and he and Rodda express a believable husband-and- wife relationship.

Fred, neighbor and friend, is played with low-key humor by Craig Brooke. He’s an important character as a catalyst and affectionate observer of the Cooper family. Rick Johnson plays Steve, the college son, and Blake Spiller is Kevin, the teenager. These Cambrians are up and coming young talents, and we can expect to see them often in the future.

The attractive young women in the play are played by attractive and charming actresses new to the Pewter Plough. Kari Wastun is excellent as Felicia, Steve’s sexy and seductive actress girlfriend. Lauren Moore plays Elsie, the professor’s alluring student. The women’s acting is good, and their physical attributes are perfect for their roles.

The play was suggested to the Plough by Nehemia Persoff, an artist and former Hollywood actor who lives in Cambria. The production is dedicated to him and to the Kerr concern for the importance of the family unit, however it plays out.

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