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Regional Reviews: Seattle

The Play's The Thing
But the Set's the Star at Intiman

David Cromwell and Laurence Ballard
Intiman Theatre's latest offering The Play's the Thing offers one of the most eye-catching scenic designs I have ever seen at this venerable Seattle playhouse. The Italian Riviera castle turned hotel interior (and a glimpse of the exterior on the water) designed by John Arnone is a captivatingly colorful bon-bon, and Catherine Hunt's splendid, showy costumes are equally beguiling.

Unfortunately, this bon-bon is lovely to look at but lacking in a creamy center. John Michael Higgins' direction of this PG Wodehouse frivolity (an adaptation of a play by Hungarian Ferenc Molnar, of Liliom fame) is stylish but slow. There are curious pauses between many line deliveries that keep this slight but engaging sort of fluff from being as air bound as it needs to be. Higgins, a riot as an actor in films like Best In Show and A Mighty Wind, isn't as accomplished as a director, yet. But he has wisely cast many of his roles with players expert enough to gloss over the shortcomings.

Renowned playwright Wodehouse happily gave his wildly theatrical characters some extraordinarily witty words to say, and the majority of the cast at Intiman gives them their due. David Cromwell and Laurence Ballard have panache and subtle wit to spare, as a pair of wry, matchmaking playwrights. Mark Capri earns the evening's heartiest laughs as a roué of a fading leading man. Seattle veteran Clayton Corzatte gives his usual master class in superlative supporting acting and expert underplaying as a wise old servant, and Larry Paulsen scores several solid guffaws as a simpering hotel servant with artistic aspirations bordering on desperation.

Far less satisfying are the performances of the cast's younger players. Quinlan Corbett is attractive yet wooden as a brooding puppy dog of a young composer, while Heather Guiles as his unfaithful opera diva paramour gives an arch interpretation, aggravated by a whiny vocal style.

Still, with some snappier cue pickups though, The Play's the Thing will suffice as a whimsical summer frolic, and most assuredly as a feast for the eyes.

The Plays the Thingruns through July 1 at Intiman Theatre, Seattle Center. For more information call 206-269-1900 or go to

Photo: Chris Bennion

- David-Edward Hughes

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