Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fringe 2016 - Suite Surrender - Perfectly Rendered Screwball Comedy Straight Out of the 1940s - 5 stars

Tweet review - #mnfringe Suite Surrender: pleasant surprise, this is a perfect little high octane 1940s screwball comedy w/a gay twist - 5 stars

Fringe confession: I had very low expectations for Suite Surrender.  I even warned my mom we were only going to it because my buddy Mike Hentges was in it (I’d loved him in You and I: Verse last year so much I saw it twice, but this was going to be a completely different kind of show).  Also, Suite Surrender just happened to be in the Rarig, where we were seeing nearly every one of our other shows that day.  Friendship and convenience aside, the title of the show made me roll my eyes and the description -

It's 1942, and two of Hollywood's biggest divas have arrived at the luxurious Palm Beach Royale Hotel. Everything seems to be in order for their performance...that is, until they are assigned to the same suite!

- didn’t do much to quell my misgivings.  However, the same synopsis made Mom think it sounded like a lot of fun.  That, plus the fact that they’d sold out their second performance just the day before we saw it for ourselves (and are now a high sell-out risk for the remainder of their run) should have been another promising cue.

“The Palm Beach Ladies For Unity - the P.B.L.F.U.”

Looking up info on playwright Michael McKeever just now, well, the guy is no novice.  And it shows in Suite Surrender.  It’s a perfect resurrection of the 1930s/1940s style of screwball comedy that was so popular in the movies of the day.  The thing moves like a rocket.  All nine members of the ensemble are in a nearly constant state of motion.  The whole cast has the rapid-fire patter of the acting style of the time down cold.  Maddy Brown’s playful costumes set the visual tone that a simple Fringe set on its own can’t.  Directors Piper Shatz-Akin and Zach Christensen don’t miss a beat.

“They remind me of my ex-husband.  May he rest in peace.  Soon.”

The divas (Shawna Bradt, and Shatz-Akin - ok, she’s acting in the thing? now I’m even more impressed), their personal assistants (Grace Curtiss, Caelan Mangan), a gossip columnist (Annie Dillon), the beleaguered hotel manager (Ethan Fogel), his two trusty bellhops (Chris Aubitz, Mike Hentges), and the busybody wife of the owner of the hotel (Sarah Adams) who’s organizing the fundraiser for the troops that’s brought the divas together - all of them careen into one another repeatedly in ever more amusing and unexpected combinations like the Rarig X space is one giant pinball machine for egos and romance.  (“Are you my bellhop?” is currently on track to be my favorite line in the Fringe this year, and perhaps my personal mantra for dating hereafter.)

“Miss McFadden, you frightened me.”
“I get that a lot.”

Good luck getting a ticket, but Suite Surrender is well worth the effort.  If you want laughs, this Fringe’s show has enough for itself and then enough to spare for three other Fringe shows that might need them.  I’ve rarely been more happy to be proven a Fringe snob and totally wrong.  My highbrow has been brought low.

5 stars - Very Highly Recommended

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