By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Everyone has at least one eccentric member of the family who craves unlimited attention. Most people can accept a certain amount of clowning and showing-off, but when someone acts like a spoiled child, brags, lies, and constantly monopolizes family-life, these antics can become a real annoyance. At Westport Country Playhouse, Aubrey Piper (Will Rogers) is such an obnoxious “show off” you may visualize yourself running onstage and wringing his neck. However, we are now enlightened that such a person is probably sick. Since George Kelly wrote this play in 1924, science has discovered that chronic exhibitionism can be considered a personality disorder and such social deficiencies are not to be made fun of -- it encourages bullying.

Regardless of our present ethics, in “The Show-Off” we are invited to experience a 1920’s comedy of manners. The simple plot with an unexpected twist is about a boasting liar who suddenly invades the Fisher family in order to steal its youngest, spoiled daughter, “Amy” (Clea Alsip). It is also about a testing of wills and has something to say about capitalism and free enterprise. If you allow yourself to accept the mannerisms and mentality of this era, you may see your own family through the playwright’s clever use of characters, sharp dialog and farce. Which simply goes to show that today, we haven’t changed very much since this play was written.

Thus, we are ushered into an upper middle-class turn of the century living room designed, by Alexander Doge. The impressive set features wooden ceiling beams, a staircase and an entrance foyer in the background. Antique lamps and dishes decorate the main living areas in the foreground and we can hear the show-off’s boasting to Amy and only imagine what the giggling is all about behind the closed doors at the side.

Most of the action takes place at a table in front of a central, massive fireplace. Here’s where Mrs. Fisher, magnificently portrayed by Jayne Houdyshell, tries to reign over her unmarried daughter and put Aubrey in his place. Meantime, Mr. Fisher (Adam LeFevre) mainly wants to relax after a day’s work, smoke his pipe, and read his paper -- sound familiar? The couple also has a single son, “Joe,” who is an inventor (Karl Olson), and a daughter (Mia Barron) married to freewheeling husband “Frank” (Robert Eli) -- these secondary characters serve to move the plot towards its finale hurrah! I’m not letting on -- in order to see who triumphs, you must see this amusing, three-act play, which is well acted and directed by Nicholas Martin. He was a 2013 Tony Award nominee for the current Broadway hit, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

Plays to June 29
Tickets: 203 227-4177

This review appears in “On CT and NY Theatre” June/2013

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