Review by Paul Nelson
IF THERE is a God, and if not, if there is any sort of reason in the theatrical
industry, then Five Ladies On a Bench, which opened its national tour
at the Wimbledon Theatre this week, should abandon the tour and immediately
open in the West End.
I feel privileged to having been allowed to see it. It is without doubt the best and most pleasing comedy I have seen in more than a year.
The five ladies on the bench in the park are five examples of modern woman, even if they are just a little over the hill.
They confide in each other, they mutually admire, bitch, dish the dirt and reminisce in such a delightful way that the audience is gulled into believing this is a comedy of manners, albeit manners of New Yorkers.
However, the play develops from this situation, which is often very funny, into a quite serious viewpoint. The premise is that as we bicker and have our problems on earth but when we get to heaven the same problems are still there, the difference being we have eternity in which to argue the toss or reconcile.
This premise provides the author with the most marvellous springboard on which he launches some killingly funny lines, some serious observations, and some fantastic opportunities for his cast.
For those, like me, who love music, we also get Cole Porter's Miss Otis Regrets, which closes the first act with such panache that it takes the audience's breath away.
This stroke of genius singles out one member of the cast.
I personally think this is rather unfair on the rest of the cast, but I have to record that as LaLa, Miquel Brown, given this possibly unfair advantage, tears the house apart.
If she had not, I would not be writing this review.
The other artistes are not to be outdone. Every one of them either breaks your heart or breaks you up with laughter depending on the scenes they play.
This entire cast is superb. There is not a single performance in this play about which I could carp.
It consists of a series of short scenes, each of which brings enthusiastic applause.
To be witness to a Wimbledon audience, not only spellbound but also appreciative of this piece, gave me untold pleasure. There is an audience for good plays at this theatre and I am particularly delighted that this offers and satisfies its audience.
I would rate this play a wow!
Five Ladies On A Bench by John A Penzotti, produced by Chris Moreno for
Chris Moreno Ltd and David Rose for Michael Rose Ltd. Choreography and staging
by David Kort, Lighting by Graham McLusky, Settings by Alan Miller-Bunford,
Costumes Amy McNamara. Directed by Chris Colby.
With Miquel Brown (La La), Anna Charleston (Rose), Jean Fergusson (Eva), Shirley Anne Field (Anna), Ruth Madoc (Gladys), Estelle Collins (Shirley), Andrew Kwame (Tuffy), Harry Landis (Marvin), Simon Masterson-Smith (Richard/Man), Gilbert Wynne (Nunzio).
On tour after this week.