When done well, Edwardian parlor comedies have a way of drawing you into a world of witty repartee and verbal gyrations, even innocent subterfuge wrapped in social grace, honor and respect – characteristics generally lacking in today’s frontal and verbal assaulting society. Quotidian’s production of Captain Drew on Leave displays the sweet innocence of a world gone by way of frilly hoop skirts and calling cards, smoking jackets and telegraphed messages instead of email and twitter. Ah, those were the good old days, and Quotidian catapults you straight into its sumptuously attired parlor.
Captain Drew got the surprise of his life when what started out as playful flirting with the very married Mrs. Moxon turns into genuine feelings of affection for her. The steady and reliable Steve LaRocque does a fine turn depicting the Captain’s stately bearing, worldly detachment, humorous reactions and slow emotional transition. The character starts off being somewhat a rake who enjoys the conquests at sea as much as he does having a fair share of “female companionship” at every port. Drew is a man of class and taste as well as having a penchant to woo married women because they’re vulnerable in needing affection and attention and can’t latch onto him, a perfect combination, he explains to his nephew Earnest White, played to Edwardian perfection by Daniel Corey.
Corey has the physical graces of a young man of leisure, with clear and crisp articulation, can strike just the right pose at ease, and looks amazingly comfortable in the various costumes of the time, including long-tailed waist-coast for dinner, tennis sweater for afternoon recreation, and top hat for the evening.
Young nephew White is smitten by the also engaging debutante Isolda or “Izzy” Mills as his love interest, played winningly by Dani Nolan, again, to absolute Edwardian perfection. Izzy is conscious of her alarming good looks, preens about the stage seeking the spotlight like a heat seeking missile and racks up marriage proposals like souvenirs. Together, they vogue and strut and patter about everybody’s affairs while subtly courting and reclining periodically on the stunningly gorgeous curved divan, set designed by the Jack of all trades, Sbarbori.
Even the cut-out fountain perched upstage looks so real you expect water to come gushing out in the waterfall. In contrast to Izzy’s dramatic flair, Stephanie Mumford as Martha. Moxon haunches her way in the shadows, but then blossoms a bit when it becomes clear that she is the object of Drew’s attention, instead of the presumed Paris Hilton wanna be, Izzy. Clarifications ensue, misunderstandings about intention and integrity must be resolved which brings Drew face to face with his old ways and a reckoning to see if and how he rises to the occasion while “on leave.”
Mrs. Moxon’s quiet genuflecting manner and conservative attire reflect quality without the glam or attention- getting frill, all of which seems to appeal to the Captain although we don’t quite know why. Davies’s script doesn’t contain much of a hint to explain the suave, world traveling sea captain’s sudden and inexplicable attraction to the mousey Plain Jane, but Sbarbori’s gentle direction allowing the moments between the two to unfold and LaRocque’s subtle observations and caring authenticity make it work. While Mumford has the self-deprecation and deflections just right, she could use a bit more stance and presence to be a better match for the rogue turned gentleman, Drew. What’s also needed is serious interval reduction between scenes which lag way too long. Since not much is happening on the set, we can only assume that it’s the costume changes taking up the time; as scrumptious as they are, it’s still an unfortunate detraction that will hopefully improve during the run.
Written by the same writer of the delightful Mollusc from last season, the play sets up the situation and establishes the characters early on, which works well. The second act, however, is too drawn out for its own good, and comes across as more of a struggle than it really should, as if the playwright was casting about for other options than what he’s settled for. The play’s heart is based on determining the true character of Drew, is he a womanizing wolf who preys on vulnerable, neglected wives for his temporary enjoyment and pleasure as he seems in the beginning? And if so, will he mend his ways? But even if he does, what’s to become of the love interest that he has established, albeit by accident? Now that the fires have been stoked, how does Ms. Moxon go on with her life and re-establish a trusting relationship with her husband? It’s a bit much to expect George Moxon, played with nice bluster and bravado by Robert Herbertson, will take all this in stride once Drew heads back out to sea. There are lots of serious questions that aren’t easily addressed or answered in what tries to pass itself off as a lighthearted comedy. Conflict within a script is fine, but Captain Drew on Leave seems conflicted about it’s own center of what it’s about. As such, the play’s resolution, while not as satisfying as the fun-filled Mollusc, still offers some interesting points to ponder regarding enduring aspects of love and meaningful relationships. As an area premiere, and in Quotidian’s capable hands, this is probably as good as it gets.
Captain Drew on Leave
Written by Hubert Henry Davies
Directed by Jack Sbarbori
Produced by Quotidian Theatre Company
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
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