Immediately upon the heels of her hit Black Pearl Sings, actress Lynda Clark stars in Theatre in the Park’s hilarious comedy Regrets Only, a new play by Paul Rudnick. This lampoon of the rich and famous is a laugh riot, and not too kind to the luscious set. Using a cast of only six, Rudnick creates a New York City penthouse and an extremely well-to-do family in crisis. The premise is clever and unique, and keeps us hanging on every word.
Director Ira David Wood IV is at the helm of the production, which boasts a wonderful set of antiques and knock-you-out costumes; the props and set pieces are beautiful and tasteful, and the gowns are to die for. Set designer Thomas Mauney has created a gorgeous living room with high windows and sumptuous furniture, including a well-stocked bar – libations figure prominently in the script. Costume designers Susan Smith and Shawn Stewart-Lawson have dressed the men in regalia and the ladies in jaw-dropping gowns. The atmosphere is rounded out by a soundscape of strictly jazz classics.
The penthouse belongs to Jack (Michael Brocki) and Tibby (Lynda Clark), a highbrow and high-profile couple who live in the Upper East Side of New York City. Jack is a partner in a powerful legal firm. Tibby is content to be seen in all the right places with all the right people. Her escort of choice is their long-time friend Hank (Rick Meadows), a gay designer as successful as Ralph Lauren, and every bit as well-heeled as Tibby and Jack. The home is cared for by Myra (Cameron West), the couple’s eccentric maid, who enjoys creating various characters for her employers’ amusement. The family is rounded out by the couple’s daughter, Spencer (Lori Ingle Taylor), a high-powered attorney in her own right, and the over-the-top mother-in-law, Tibby’s mom Marietta (Janis Coville). The play is set sometime during the reign of George W. Bush, circa 2000-2008.
Hank arrives at the beginning of the evening in full regalia, planning a night on the town with Tibby, who sports a backless, floor length, black evening dress for their outing. The night has a long list of soirees planned, and the two are looking forward to seeing and being seen. Their plans are interrupted by the arrival of Jack, straight from work, who has a huge secret that involves their daughter, Spencer. Spencer herself arrives soon after, with giant news of her own: she has just become engaged! After the ooh-ing and aah-ing over the news and the ring, Jack drops his bombshell. He just received a phone call from the President himself and has been invited to Washington to work on a new Constitutional amendment! He and Spencer must leave that very night for the Capitol.
Here’s the rub: the amendment is to be a marriage rights amendment, declaring that marriage is strictly between one man and one woman. This causes grave misgivings in both Hank and Tibby, who is concerned for her BFF. Hank has only just lost his partner of thirty-eight years, Mike, to cancer. Hank queries Jack on his motives, but Jack is too caught up in being summoned by the president to give Hank much solace. Jack leaves to pack while Myra packs a bag for Spencer. Tibby, Hank, and Spencer then discuss the ins and outs of marriage and how it affects people. But a pall has been cast on the evening, and once Jack and Spencer leave, Hank is too despondent to be a partygoer; the two remain indoors for the rest of the evening.
Act II is the real meat of the play, and the real test of these actors’ skills. Rick Meadows as Hank had to figure out how his character would respond to the new amendment. Brocki played Jack as flabberghasted that his friend Hank was so upset. Clark, whose Tibby is caught in the middle, played her role as a classic woman on the edge; at one point she broke into a tear that left her family speechless and us rolling in the aisles, and garnered applause for her turn. Taylor was frantic in playing Spencer as she approaches her nuptials, and caused us great giggles as she responded to each turn of events, at one point hiding under the pillows on a couch. In playing Marietta, Coville handled the character’s outre arrival (in a garbage bag!) with sophistication and panache. West as Myra was just a stitch, playing multiple characters within the same role and carrying each off with aplomb.
The laughs come thick and fast and continue until everything gets sorted out. But to find out how it happens, you’ve got to go see this comedy. It is a hoot from start to finish, from the first entrance by Myra to the final exit by Hank, who is firmly established as the winner of the evening’s shenanigans. The show is a blast throughout. It is amazing how quickly and enjoyably the two-hour production passes. Theatre in the Park has another full-scale hit on its hands, featuring a cast that kept us hanging on every word. Regrets Only is a lark, and a superb way to wile away a lovely spring evening.
Regrets Only continues through Sunday, April 12. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.