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Theater Review:

Women shine in ensemble

February 24, 2010|By James Famera

When one thinks of spying, it usually brings to mind an ultra-modern locale where secret agents run around with cool gadgets — a la “Mission Impossible.”

However, in “Celadine,” a period tale about a female playwright of the same name and the men who love her, 17th century London serves as the unlikely backdrop.

Did I mention there’s a spy involved? Be careful though; if you blink, you might miss him, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

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In its West Coast premiere at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, “Celadine” is the third in a trilogy of spy-themed plays by East Coast playwright Charles Evered. As it turns out, Restoration England proves to be somewhat of a bore when it comes to tales of espionage.

Although it claims not to be historical, the king in question is, in fact, Charles II, a patron of both theater and the arts who was rumored to be a Catholic. Charles had accumulated many enemies throughout Protestant England, and “Celadine” is essentially a fictional re-telling of an assassination plot to kill him.

The only problem is that through most of the first half, and well into the second, “Celadine” presents itself as a pure comedy, with a couple of smart-alecky women who say stuff like “it’s a habit of mine to repel them,” when offered compliments. It reminded me of an episode of the late 1970s sitcom “Laverne & Shirley” — without the laugh track, of course.

The play takes place in a London coffeehouse, complete with ornate curtains and a magnificent stone fireplace that serves as a memorial to Celadine’s recently departed daughter. The shop is operated by a former prostitute named Mary (the invaluable Holly Hawkins). Mary is short with the customers and shows no restraint toward her boss Celadine. Fortunately for us, the banter that follows makes for some of the most entertaining moments in the play.

When Celadine makes her grand entrance riding piggyback on a man with no tongue (Will Barker as the mute tailor Jeffrey), the two funny ladies really let loose.

“I’ve found that all the men I’ve dealt with in the past have all been able to talk,” Celadine admits to Mary.

“That can be a problem,” Mary replies.

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