Category Archive for: ‘Flora Lynn Isaacson’

“Leading Ladies” – Ken Ludwig’s Theatrical Farce At NTC

Our play first opens with a clever abridged version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and then proceeds to tell the story about two English Shakespearean actors, Leo Clark (Craig Christianson) and Jack Gable (Robert Nelson), who find themselves down on their luck, so they are performing “Scenes from Shakespeare” in the Moose Lodge circuit in the Amish county of Pennsylvania.

 When they hear that an old lady by the name of Florence (Christina Jacqua) in York, PA, is about to die and leave her fortune to her two long-lost English nephews, they resolve to pass themselves off as her beloved relatives and get the cash.

When they discover that “Max” and “Steve” are actually “Maxine” and “Stephen,” they continue on undaunted, in drag. Leo falls for Florence’s actual niece Meg (Laura Domingo), while Jack swoons over Florence’s part-time aide, Audrey (Laura Espino).

Florence recovers just as the pair arrives, but they decide to keep on, both to try to outlast her health and to stay close to the objects of their interest. Leo convinces Meg, who is enamored with Shakespeare and a fan of Jack and Leo, to put on a production at Florence’s estate, to give himself more of an opportunity to be with her, both as Leo and Maxine.  Meanwhile, Meg’s fiancé Duncan grows increasingly suspicious of the “leading ladies.”

With this play, Ken Ludwig again proves his reputation as the master of American farce, so well established with “Lend Me a Tenor.”

Craig Christianson steals the show as Leo Clark. His performance is varied, subtle and complex, far beyond such broad comedy. Leo’s dialects are quite different for each facet of his character: Shakespearean actor, actor not performing, lover, woman and actress. Christianson’s vocal performance never falters.

Robert Nelson, as Jack Gable, is in control at all times – knowing how much of Gable’s frustration to show each of the other characters and how much to demonstrate to the audience. He has some priceless stage business as the deaf and dumb Stephanie about how she is to understand someone else speaking.

 There are so many other highlights. This is a show in which the wise-cracks come only from smart alecs, and chief among them is Doc Myers, portrayed by the amazing Michael Walraven.

Laura Domingo walks a more subtle line as Meg.  Neither hard-boiled nor dim-witted, Meg is serious and smart and concerned with the interplay of honor and desire. David Kester plays the Rev. Duncan Woolery as oily and superior.

Marie Meier’s and Janice Deneau’s costumes are wonderful, and Michael Walraven’s set is a masterpiece. Superbly staged and paced by Kris Neely, Leading Ladies at the Novato Theater Company is magnificently realized.

Leading Ladies opened on August 22nd and will play through September 14th, 2014, at the Novato Theater Company. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. NTC is located at 5420 Nave Drive in Novato. For tickets, call 415-883-4488, or go online at

Coming up next at NTC will be Avenue Q, with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty, from October 9th through November 9th, 2014.