Ed Shea, artistic director of Warren's 2nd Story Theatre, had to ring up theater folk in London for permission to do “Dangerous Corner,” a mostly forgotten 1930s play by J.B. Priestley. Bill Gale says the result is, somewhat mixed.
I think that whether you will enjoy this piece of Brit wit depends on your mood. Or on your ability to accept goofy – and unforeseeable-able -- turns of plot, along with some simply silly jokes, not to mention a startling ending.
“Dangerous Corner” was Priestley's first hit play. He went on to become one of Britain's leading writers, often controversial and often applauded. He begins this play with absolute normality. It seems to be just another example of British drawing room comedy. Men in dinner jackets, women in long dresses with oh-so-well coiffed hair.
At 2nd Story, designer Ron Cesario has outdone himself with these costumes. The men's tuxedos are double breasted. The ladies dresses, gowns, really, are all silk-like, shiny, sly and sexy.
The dialogue is pretty much that way, too.
“I'm going to be rather rude,” says one gent.
“But I know you won't mind,” he adds.
From there, “Dangerous Corner” whips into something like a police procedural. What is the truth about why Jeremy, a never seen character, has shot himself? And who took the money? You expect Scotland Yard's arrival at any moment.
But, no. Soon enough, the work switches into a melodramatic series of instances. Who loves whom? Who hates whom? And just whose been sleeping with whom? Pretext and pretense are everywhere, says one woman, speaking the truth.
All of this had the audience when I was there chuckling, sometimes because of the humor, sometimes for what seemed just plain silliness. The guy next to me must have checked his watch six times during the 90 or so minute intermission-less production.
But, then, about halfway through, I got into the whole, big preposterous joke. After all, Shea's direction is faultless, fast and crisp. The ladies played by Tania Montenegro, Paula Faber, Lian-Marie Munro and Tanya Anderson, manage not only those gowns but their flighty -- and harsh – dialogue with aplomb.
The gentlemen, Luis Astudillo, Nicolas Thibeault and Wayne Kneeland, are equally proficient. Watch all the cast react when someone else says something funny, or cruel, or snappy, or silly.
In the end, “Dangerous Corner” proves itself capable of all kinds of odd-ball twists, turns, big-time change. There's surprise and even suspense. So what the heck; go ahead and go see it.
Just remember: nothing is what it seems at first. But it's the ending that counts, right? Well, at “Dangerous Corner” you'll leave the theater to Cole Porter's soulful “Begin the Beguine.” Who knows? You might feel like dancing.
“Dangerous Corner” continues at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren through October 18th. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.
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