Toronto’s Stage Centre Productions presents Ken Ludwig’s farce Leading Ladies
Sadly, I did not enjoy last night’s opening performance of Leading Ladies presented by Stage Centre Productions at The Fairview Library Theatre. It’s community theatre but with the types of missteps that give community theatre a bad name. The show has a lot of heart but I definitely think it misses the mark on the essential polish and precision a farce so desperately needs to succeed.
Leading Ladies, by Ken Ludwig, is a very well written and humorous play on its own. Two male actors, struggling to stay afloat, find themselves presented with an opportunity to cash in on an old lady’s fortune by posing as her long-lost nieces. Hijinx ensue with romantic entanglements that set the play spinning in many funny directions.
This production didn’t work for me for many reasons. Perhaps due to first day jitters, I noticed the actors were forgetting their lines. Normally, I wouldn’t be too bothered by this but again, farce so strongly depends on an actor knowing their stuff inside and out to preserve the integrity of the pacing that is so very important in making a farce work. The dialogue felt forced at times and I thought the dialects were spotty and garbled by either the limitations of the actors or simply nerves. I found it jarring when this would happen.
I also noticed that the set was never used and that there was a disconnect between the actors and their environment. There was a lot of hovering and speaking next to furniture but no one ever sat. For a while, I found it hard to believe that anyone owned the place. It was an odd choice considering the director, Todd Davies, was also the set designer. You’d think he’d want to actually utilize his set to its full potential.
There were a lot of rookie mistakes with actors playing to the audience. This would have worked for me had it been used as a mechanism for comedy but unfortunately it was simply a means for the actors to be heard. A lot of times, it just felt like lines were being delivered but not felt, like they weren’t sinking into the marrow of the actor. Instead of just “feeling” there was a lot of “showing” which could make a performance seem insincere. Even though this is a comedic farce, the characters still have to believe their story and be based in their reality to make it truly funny.
I found the audience really seemed to be enjoying themselves whereas I and my companion struggled to figure out why. I felt like it mostly consisted of a season ticket-holding crowd who may have known some of the actors on stage and simply found it amusing due to familiarity. Perhaps, they were laughing at Ludwig’s play and not so much the delivery itself. I felt like the actors were trying really hard to milk us for a laugh which is comedy death.
Like I said, this was very much a community theatre production. The actors were always teetering on the edge of being where they needed to be for the play to work but never quite got there. The direction, or lack thereof was puzzling and it wasn’t until the second act that I started to see glimpses of the physical comedy that should have been there throughout. The blackout and scene changes were too long and clumsy and there was a general lack of energy throughout.
I’m not sure you’d want to trudge up to The Fairview Library Theatre at the end of the TTC line to catch this production of Leading Ladies. I think it needs a lot of work and is still in a very basic stage. I’m sure they will do just fine in terms of ticket sales though as they seem to have a loyal fan base up there.
- Leading Ladies runs March 17th-26th, 2016 at Fairview Library Theatre (35 Fairview Mall Drive, North York)
- Tickets are $30 Adult, $25 Student, $25 Seniors (60+) and can be purchased at the door or online. Please note there is a $2 service fee for online purchases.
- Show Times: Fri. March 18 8pm, Sat. March 19 8pm, Sun. March 20 2pm, Wed. March 23 8pm, Thursday March 24 8pm, Fri. March 25 8pm, Sat. March 26 2pm and 8pm
Photo of Robert Glen provided by company