To keep it brief, “Under Where” is comedy gold

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Brett Pendleton looks absolutely fabulous, darling, as Paul Pritchard (in clever disguise) in “Who’s Under Where?” on January 15. ECA Review/K. Davis

Who’s underwear, indeed.

This is the existential query asked by many a character in the Castor Little Theatre play “Who’s Under Where?”, witnessed on Saturday, February 15 at the Castor Community Hall. The play, labeled a ‘farce in two acts,’ was in reality a performance much more clever and nuanced than the phrasing denotes – it was a mastery of comedic proportions, devilishly coy and charmingly tongue in cheek (which cheek is yours to guess) that had the dress rehearsal audience in fits of laughter throughout the afternoon.

Showing to an audience of patrons from the Coronation and Castor Lodges, the play began with two attractive young entrepreneurs of the lingerie (pronounced “lan-gar-ay!”) business Passion Fashion Wear; sitting in a glamorous hotel suite furnished with an expansive balcony, luxurious cream sofa and racks brimming over with brightly coloured women’s undergarments.

Jane Pritchard and Sybil Brunt, played by Sara Loonen and Jenna Wilson, reveal that they are poised on the cusp of a large business deal with a well-known Italian designer. Given the cutthroat nature of fashion design, it is understood the deal will require buff, attractive men to model their underwear line, which includes a silk rabbit ensemble and what could loosely be called Scottish kilt-chic.

From this opening scene the play unfolds as a cascading fury of one hilarious circumstance after another, beginning with the arrival of jealous husbands who have reached tragically flawed conclusions about their wives’ whereabouts. Believing their wives to be commissioning services of a different sort from the models, the two men ultimately find themselves trapped in a comical triad of confusion – ranging from an increasingly awkward mistaken suggestion of a threesome with model Sebastian to what can only be described as a drastic change of attire. Throw in a charmingly oblivious high fashion notable and a dowdy British security officer and ‘who’s underwear’ becomes anybody’s guess.

Jane Pritchard and Sybil Brunt (L – R, played by Sara Loonen and Jenna Wilson) admire their men’s fashion line while George Brunt (Johann Freerksen) gawks in horror from his shrubbery hiding spot in “Who’s Under Where?” on Saturday, January 15 at the Castor Community Hall. ECA Review/K. Davis

Cast of characters

As Jane Pritchard, Loonen crafted out a sassy persona of an intense industrialist and well-meaning wife with just a hint of suppressed sexual energy that comes crashing out in spurts when addressing everything from the myriad of hot models in various states of awkward posing, to her unrelenting insistence that her bunny boxer shorts/ear paring be modeled by one of the chiseled men. She was at her best when concealing circumstances from others, wherein her character’s inability to suppress emotion enhanced her believability as a convincingly bad liar.

As Sybil Brunt, Wilson made her acting debut as an elegant young businesswoman eager to succeed, her poise and straightforward attitude a compliment to the more comedic styling of Pritchard.

For her first show, Wilson did not falter in her lines and seemed to grow more comfortable with the role as the play progressed, developing the comic persona of her character with proficiency.

The play takes on an entirely new layer of goofy charm when Paul Pritchard and George Brunt, played by Brett Pendleton and Johnn Freerksen, arrive on scene. The men mirror each other in perfect form, with Freerksen’s self-conscious, trusting naiveté complimented well by Pendleton’s bullheaded presumption of spousal guilt. The two have some of the most quotable lines in the play, such as when Pendleton observes of the insidious evidence against the wives that “proof is mounting” and Freerksen replies that this was an unfortunate choice of words.

In the later half of the play, both men display what can only be called absolute comfort in their sexuality – in effort not to give away the plot, it is suffice to say that Pendleton deserves an award for both poise and vocal range and Freerksen will change the way the audience looks at apples forevermore.

To round out the sensational cast, Don Sisson plays an on-point Bruno Fruferelli, the fashion mogul with a penchant for wine, women and the Italian language. Sisson is perfectly aloof in this role, embodying a man defined by a love of the pleasures of high society with just enough European cool to make the role distinctly believable.

As Roger Hodge, the awkwardly inelegant security guard, Eugene Gustafson plays into British sensibility with just the right amount of snooty entitlement to make plain his feelings of feeble superiority as guardian of hotel safety.

Gustafson truly shines when an increasingly obscure – and distinctly British – play on sexuality is thrown into the mix; whereby the character’s inappropriate advances come on casually and grotesquely, making these scenes uncomfortably arresting to watch.

The many faces of the Castor Little Theatre: Johann Freerksen gets a touch up from Makeup Artist Pam Younger before the show on January 15, 2014.
ECA Review/K. Davis

As a new addition to Castor Little Theatre, Justin Standing fits in well as Sebastian, the deadpan, quietly confused model who is in his element to go with the flow no matter how strange the flow might be.

Directors Rob Nichols and Andrea Griebel pulled off the play ‘seamlessly.’ For a dress rehearsal there were no real errors or false starts to be found. The set design was visually interesting and inviting as a capsule for the action on stage, and the flow of the play was such that the laughs were routine and continuous with no lulls or pauses in the comedic movement. Ultimately, “Who’s Under Where?” answers all the right questions where comedy is concerned, even if the subject of gendered undergarments remains ambiguous till the very end.

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