Photos by James Fry
Review by Lisa Purchase

The staid and solid set that greeted people as they took their seats for One for the Pot offered a sense of serenity and seriousness … a set-up for the poor unsuspecting audience who was about to be taken for a ride. The creamy walls and opulent draperies, the wall sconces and the classy antique furnishings never even hinted at the madness about to ensue.

In Ray Cooney's & Tony Hilton's One for the Pot, a classic farce first produced in 1959 (and currently directed by Professor Ric Roberts), each character is simply and easily established through an accent, an affectation, or a prop, and once we've met them we're off and running. There's precious little time to waste on things like character development or motivation, but we don't care about that because these guys are easy to define: there’s the cantankerous cigar-smoking wheelchair-driving master of the house (Rusty Meyers); the stuffy huffy hoopskirt-wearing mistress (Danielle Schoeny); the smart-aleck boozing butler (Chad Baker); the bubbly boyfriend-toting cubist-art-aspiring heiress daughter (Amanda Mueller); and the usual entourage of lawyers and loopy party guests. After this brief introduction, the whole enterprise kicks into overdrive and gets turned on its ear … enter, Caleb Knutson.

In a plot far too convoluted to discuss, Caleb Knutson plays four brothers who, along with a shifty "lawyer" (David Milka), need to convince the wealthy head of the household that there is only ONE of them, while still keeping up with the various relationships and entanglements each of them encounters along the way. Needless to say, it is one zany episode of mistaken identity after another, liberally peppered with jokes so bad they're good (as the butler quips while moving the art supplies, "Pop goes the easel"). There are slamming doors, people stuffed in closets, a man dressed in drag, a misplaced suitcase full of money, lots of falling down, an awesome tango scene, battling suitors (of both sexes), and a multitude of "Who's on first?"-type conversations that chase their own tail into hilarity. Even the furniture gets into the act, as the sideboard displaying respectable decanters of liquor is visited so frequently that it becomes a character in its own right, and ends up wreaking havoc on the household with its trick drawer.

There are a few things necessary to make this all work. The rubber-faced, multi-voiced, loose-limbed Caleb manages to give each of his four characters their own look and voice so the audience can at least keep a tenuous grasp on what is going on. And the rapid-fire timing (and a little beautifully done slight-of-hand) keeps the audience constantly surprised as Caleb's various characters appear only seconds after he has left the stage as someone else on the opposite side of the room … and sometimes while he appears to still be ON the stage! Unsuspecting at first, I laughed right out loud the first time this happened, and continued to chuckle each time throughout the play. While I credit the ensemble for all keeping up with this masterful and chaotic timing, I also have to credit the unsung heroes of this effort: the three backstage Dressers, Cameron Thorp, Caitlin Walsh, and Clarissa Powaser, and the person listed for Live Effects, Addison Spear (as well as three other actors). Without their well-rehearsed work backstage (and largely undetected work onstage) a farce of this complexity could not have been such a rousing success.

As it is, Roberts's One for the Pot has all the elements necessary for a truly funny farce, and it is complimented by the cast's perfect timing and manic energy. This show runs only three more nights: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. I recommend that you take your willing suspension of disbelief, throw yourself into the thing, and join this show for a hilarious ride this weekend.

Location: Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University. Admission: $10.00 - General Admission, $7.00 - Senior Citizens (ages 60+), $7.00 - Students. For more information or to order tickets, contact the Box Office at 989-964-4261.

© Lisa Purchase, 2010