Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Set on the back porch of the Archer family house in 1943, the story centers on Corliss Archer, who is about to turn sixteen but wishes she were older. Due to an unfortunate incident at the USO bazaar where Corliss and her best friend Mildred Pringle decided to sell kisses for $1 to boost sales, Corliss' parents now think Mildred is a bad influence on their daughter, while the Pringles think Corliss is the one to blame. A series of humorous events and a lot of mistaken gossip, name calling, and finger pointing only add fuel to the fire of the ongoing feud between the two families.
Hale's large cast, under Cambrian James' careful and crisp direction, achieve performances that easily walk the fine line between comedy and drama and perfectly capture the simple daily incidents that make humorous and meaningful moments of everyday family life. The entire cast deliver beautiful performances led by Meg Farnsworth who is exceptionally bright, spirited and fun as Corliss, the adolescent girl who pretends to be older than she is and flirts shamelessly as she tries to impress the young private her parents invite home for dinner, even though she has something of a relationship with her next-door neighbor Dexter. Farnsworth expertly projects the naive, wide-eyed and not exactly innocent young girl who longs for more yet also truly loves her family and is actually very mature in her ability to keep true to her word. With a high-pitched voice, fun facial expressions, disheveled clothes and an all-around nervous disposition, Allan DeWitt is an absolute and lovable hoot as the awkward Dexter, who we learn has more than just a crush on Corliss.
As Corliss' parents, Mark Kleinman and Laura Soldan are sublime in delivering comical portrayals of a loving and caring couple who let unfortunate incidents almost get the best of the them. Kleinman's ability to show a heightened and frenzied state of agitation is hilarious, while Soldan's quiet attempts to hold the family together while the frantic news swirls around them is equally well played and presents a nice balance to Kleinman's vocal outbursts.
In the supporting cast, Lizzy Jensen is strong-willed and optimistic as Mildred, and Benjamin Harris has a strong and solid stage presence as Corliss' older brother Lieutenant Lenny Archer. Ami Porter is superb as Mildred's mother Dorothy, who is always trying to get the upper hand in the feud, while Jonah Romanoff is hilarious as her annoying, younger son, the wise-talking Raymond. Kale Burr does well as Private Jimmy Earhart, whom Corliss attempts to romance.
While the first act is charming as it sets the plot in motion, James' direction ensures the second act delivers the big laughs in Herbert's witty script. Hale's creative elements are enriched with period elements, including 1940s style dresses, sweaters and military uniforms from Mary Atkinson, stylized wigs from James, and a set design from Brian Daily that includes an array of smart touches.
Filled with humorous and eccentric characters and a non-stop barrage of confusing and hilarious situations, Kiss and Tell is funny and fast paced. The costumes, set, and style of acting in Hale's production will easily transport you back to the time period of the play with a plot filled with fun and unexpected twists, but the story also has a big heart at its center.
The Hale Centre Theatre production of Kiss and Tell runs through November 14th, 2017, with performances on Monday and Tuesday nights at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert AZ. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling 480-497-1181.
Written by F. Hugh Herbert