Reviewed by Liz Clifford
In his latest production, Phillips manages to both lampoon and celebrate small town life. As the play opens, the board of a small town theater is debating what their next production should be. Sidestepping the possibility that a lack of talent may be at the heart of the group’s limited success, they decide that they need to stretch themselves and try something new—a play by Shakespeare.
To lead them in their undertaking, a vacationing professional director, Richard (Virgil Hubbard), is pressed into service by his cousin and theater board member (Megan Maddocks). Instead of performing one play by Shakespeare, Richard decides the group should attempt a selection of the most famous scenes. Unfortunately, the cast is mostly composed of the theater’s headstrong and eccentric board members (Laura Bonarski, Joanne Carter, John Foley, Kim Johnson, Vince Lauria, Megan Maddocks, and Terri Riggle). Despite the addition of a charming local ingénue (Jenna Johnson) and a talented first time actor (Nick Bonarski), this “Best of Shakespeare” production quickly descends into mayhem. When Richard is prepared to wash his hands of the whole affair, his son and nephew (Wyatt Johnson and Ian Murphy) come to the rescue with a novel plan to salvage the show.
The audience at the Kent Theater laughed with delight at the antics of the quarrelsome board as the vastly different personalities try to work together to achieve a common goal. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town “recognized” their friends and neighbors in the foibles and mannerisms of these broadly written characters. Once again, Phillips has managed to capture people and situations that his audience knows from their own lives and experiences – they were still chuckling as they left the theater about their offices, towns, and organizations being exactly as shown in the play.
The actors were all outstanding in their roles and, with the exception of delightful newcomer Ian Murphy, the cast of Hamlet and Eggs are all Cedar Springs stage veterans. Wyatt Phillips has appeared in all four of his father’s plays and Cedar Springs High School students Nick Bonarski and Jenna Johnson (our reigning Red Flannel Queen) perform frequently as both musicians and actors at the high school and at the Kent Theatre.
With four original plays under his belt, Phillips has accumulated a talented pool of actors, musicians, and a fantastic crew that works behinds the scenes to make his shows both enjoyable and memorable. We look forward to next year’s production with anticipation.