Sunday, May 26, 2013

MRS. MANNERLY • Max & Louie Productions

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's two-actor, one-act play was inspired by memories of an etiquette class he took as a child.  You get a taste of that right off the top during the pre-show announcement as Mrs. Mannerly advises us to mind our P’s and Q’s.

The play centers around Jeffrey (Charlie Ingram) reliving his time spent with Helen Anderson Kirk, better known as, "Mrs. Mannerly" (Donna Weinsting) in 1967.  For over thirty years she'd been running her locally acclaimed classes to try and restore some sense of decorum to the young residents of Steubenville, Ohio.  Jeffrey was never the athletic type.  He says that while other kids had play clothes, he had "reading clothes".  He loved "Ironside", "F-Troop" and wanted to be Bert Parks, and he was also innately polite.  He was admitted into Mrs. Mannerly’s manners class and while he may not have been thrilled about it at first, he was hungry for an opportunity to engage in anything where he could excel.  In addition to playing an adult and 10 year old Jeffrey, Ingram also portrays his fellow classmates -- ass-kissing Charles, runny-nosed Ralph, and two female students, Jaime and Kim.  In these classes, held in a second floor gym of the YMCA, Emily Post's etiquette book was the bible, good posture was a must, and any student who said "what" instead of, "I beg your pardon" was fined 25 cents.  The language of the kids does stray off into the profane, especially when imitating their families' typical dinner conversation.  Though she may be devoted to the development of social graces, Mrs. Mannerly also manages to elicit laughter with her unexpectedly salty one-liners.

Charlie Ingram (Jeffrey) and
Donna Weinsting (Mrs. Mannerly).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Once Jeffrey's competitive impulse starts to kick in, and his fellow students are either kicked out or drop out of the class one by one, he becomes determined to be the first student ever to score a perfect 100% on his final exam, and he and Mrs. Mannerly form a unique friendship.  He also learns that Mrs. Mannerly is not without her secrets -- there's more under the surface than she lets on.  Once young Master Jeffrey catches Mrs. Mannerly in a lie about her past, he becomes bent on discovering why she denies her mysterious time spent in Chicago before she came to Steubenville.  Everything culminates at the exam, where Jeffrey must not only answer all 100 questions correctly, execute a perfect table setting and walk with a book on his head, he also finds himself with some choices to weigh.

Charlie Ingram (Jeffrey) and
Donna Weinsting (Mrs. Mannerly).
Photo credit: John Lamb
In addition to playing Jeffrey and the students, Ingram also plays Patsy, a nineteen year old whom Mrs. Mannerly has picked to be his partner in the dance portion of the exam, and Mr. Krosky of the Thespian Society, a theatre queen who helps Jeffrey uncover a little information about Mrs. Mannerly.  Ingram gives each of his aptly defined characters enough distinction to be able to keep track of everyone easily, and makes the most of their individual quirks.  Weinsting's Mrs. Mannerly can be strict and imposing, but reveals herself more in her funny moments, particularly when she winds up with Master Jeffrey at the hotel bar where she spends many of her evenings.  She's a somewhat sympathetic character, and Weinsting is able to touch on all of those bases with her usual flair, although a few line flubs from both actors on opening night threatened to be too distracting.  Maureen Berry's lights shifted between the narration and the flashbacks and the costumes were designed by Sara Wiegard with scenic design by Christopher M. Waller.

Whether you miss the diminishing art of civility or not, under David Hemsley Caldwell's direction and the chemistry that Ingram and Weinsting provide, this play will give you plenty of laughs.


Written by Jeffrey Hatcher
Directed by David Hemsley Caldwell 
through June 2 | tickets: $25 - $30
Performances Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, Saturdays & Sundays at 2pm

Donna Weinsting (Mrs. Mannerly) and Charlie Ingram (Jeffrey).

Lighting design by Maureen Berry; costume design by Sara Wiegard; sound design by Amanda Werre; scenic design by Christopher M. Waller; stage manager, Holly Marie Hunter.

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