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Theater Review

Nailing the Brass Ring

Long Beach Playhouse finds the mark with right-on pacing and crisp rhythms in its well-cast revival of 'Marriage-Go-Round.'

July 13, 1999|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The program of "The Marriage-Go-Round," at the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage, indicates that the action takes place in "the present." Not likely.

Leslie Stevens' 1958 comedy is very funny and a fine example of the Broadway days when sitcoms were rife on the Great White Way, especially those tailored like this one for its original stars (Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer). He's a transplanted Frenchman, a professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies (humanities), and she is dean of women. The gimmick revolves around lectures they give to their students.

The snippets of the lectures shown would have them laughed off campus in these post-feminist, very PC days, even though some of it is tongue-in-cheek.

What is timeless is what goes on at home, for of course Professor Paul Delville and Professor Content Lowell Delville are happily married. They are awaiting the arrival of Katrin Sveg, daughter of an old Swedish friend. They last saw the girl when she was 11, pigtailed and in braces. The fun begins when she walks in the door, now grown, a brilliant scholar, very blond, very busty and very open about things physical, such as her obsessive desire to bear Professor Paul Delville's child.

The complications are obvious, the innuendoes tantalizing but innocent, and the laughs easily earned. Director Darlene Hunter-Chaffee hits the bull's-eye here--with pacing that's right on the button, crisp rhythms in all the right places and only a very slight tendency to get too serious in a couple of spots. This is not a show that asks for much sobriety, only charm, lightness and romance.

Hunter-Chaffee has cast it impeccably all down the line. Jack Messenger as Paul is authentically Gallic, even to his grunted asides and Bourbon lower lip. His comic timing sparkles and flashing grins of embarrassment get their own laughs. As his loving but suspecting wife, Christi Sweeney couldn't be better, bubbling and effervescent even in her anger--exactly right for this genre--and a joy to watch as her unproven suspicions slowly take hold.

As the bimbo Alexondra Lee is as opaque, attractive and chilly as she should be and plays all her comic moments properly deadpan and properly posed to the correct advantage.

David Lindstedt is the married language professor at the school, who lusts after Mrs. Delville but acts innocently as her confessor. Lindstedt is charm itself, and his boyish crush is handled with honesty and enough tongue-in-cheek to keep a smile on the viewer's face.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

* "The Marriage-Go-Round," Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage, 5021 E. Anaheim St. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; July 25 and Aug. 1, 2 p.m. Ends Aug. 7. $12-$15. (562) 494-1616. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Jack Messenger: Paul Delville

Christi Sweeney: Content Lowell Delville

Alexondra Lee: Katrin Sveg

David Lindstedt: Ross Barnett

A Long Beach Playhouse revival of Leslie Stevens' comedy. Directed by Darlene Hunter-Chaffee. Scenic design: Robyn Coburn. Lighting design: Sean Forrester. Costume design: Donna Fritsche. Stage manager: Gilbert Solorzano.

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