2017-05-18 / On the Town

Senior brings dynamic energy to title role

By Cary Ginell

IT’S ALL RELATIVE —Mame (Emily Goldstein, center) chats with Doris (Shoshana May Sharpe, left) and Claude (Michael Moss), the bigoted parents of her son’s fiancee, in Newbury Park High’s production of“ Auntie Mame.” The play continues through Saturday. Courtesy of Sally Varav IT’S ALL RELATIVE —Mame (Emily Goldstein, center) chats with Doris (Shoshana May Sharpe, left) and Claude (Michael Moss), the bigoted parents of her son’s fiancee, in Newbury Park High’s production of“ Auntie Mame.” The play continues through Saturday. Courtesy of Sally Varav PLAY REVIEW /// ‘Auntie Mame’

That devil-may-care bon vivant Mame Dennis is back in Newbury Park High School’s spring production of “Auntie Mame,” which runs through Saturday. Patrick Dennis’ semi-autobiographical 1955 novel about growing up in the Depression with his larger than life aunt not only was the inspiration for this play, but a film, a stage musical and a film musical as well.

The story traces incidents in Mame’s life from 1928 through 1946 as she gains and loses fortunes and husbands while retaining her relish for life and ability to look at any crisis through rose-colored glasses. Shea Taylor and Marilyn Strange share directing duties, utilizing a large, enthusiastic cast of students from the school’s theater arts department.

The larger-than-life title role has to be played by a dynamic actress and senior Emily Goldstein fills that bill. Goldstein’s Mame is a whirlwind of activity, irrepressible, unconventional and, at the same time, loyal and adoring to her many eccentric friends, but especially fond of her ward and nephew, Patrick, who arrives at her doorstep, orphaned at age 10.

One wishes Mame could break into song, as she does in the musical, but this is the play version, and although the action sometimes drags, Goldstein keeps the energy flowing and delivers a rock-’em, sock-’em performance.

It’s difficult for one actor to play Patrick, who ages from a naive 10-year-old to a somewhat snobbish man in his late 20s. Often, two actors are used, but in this production Noah Varav, a junior, handles both parts. Varav has a hard time being convincing as the younger Patrick, especially since he’s the same height as Goldstein, but he does his best, romping around in short pants and raising his voice to little-boy level. He’s much more comfortable in the later scenes as the mature Patrick.

Blair Rocheleau is Vera Charles, a self-absorbed actress who is Mame’s boozy best buddy. Rocheleau plays her with a kind of Bette Davis swagger, which is very funny. She and Goldstein make a great pair.

Charles Ocampo plays Ito, Mame’s long-standing Chinese manservant, who steals every scene with his giggling, prissy presence and stiff-legged shuffle.

Frank Gress III plays the aristocratic Georgia millionaire Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, who is even more adventurous than Mame, courting and marrying her in a matter of minutes, and then spending the remainder of his days globetrotting with her until he falls off a mountain, turning Mame into a very well-heeled widow. Gress is appearing in his first production and is impressive in the important, grandiose role of Burnside.

Jenna Schecter steals the show as Beauregard’s ancient mother, hunched and doddering while leaning on a wobbly cane that looks as if it is in imminent danger of collapsing. Rory Smith (as housemaid Norah Muldoon) and Anthony Wermers (as Mame’s second husband, publisher Brian O’Bannion) are excellent as the Irish characters, both cultivating convincing brogues.

When a grown-up Patrick gets engaged to Connecticut socialite Gloria Upson (Miranda Barraza), sparks fly as Mame confronts Gloria’s bigoted parents, well played by Shoshana May Sharpe (as Doris) and Michael Moss (as Claude). Sydney Clark is attractive as Pegeen, the interior decorator (a maid in the musical version) who catches Patrick’s eye just as his relationship with Gloria is falling apart.

Kylie Vincent is infinitely florid as Southern belle Sally Cato MacDougal and Megan Morales brings laughs as Mame’s bumbling secretary, who Mame converts from a wallflower into a very pregnant (and funny) unwed mother.

Max Oliver and Leah Zweig led the team of costumers that created the show’s high-fashion outfits.

“Auntie Mame” concludes its run with 7 p.m. performances May 18 to 20 at Newbury Park High School’s Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at the box office or via the website www.showtix4u.com.

Return to top