Audiences in search of a perfectly marvelous time at the theater could hardly make a more perfect choice than the latest from Theatre 40, Kristi Kane’s Perfect Timing, a play so perfectly delightful that you’d expect it had run a decade or more on London’s West End and not a mere six months in Van Nuys way back in the mid-80s before fading into unjust obscurity.
Kane’s romantic farce introduces us to glamorous London art critic Cornelia Thorndike (Helen Anker), whose reviews may not be the kindest (“The only thing worth hanging is the artist himself”), but haven’t stopped the object of her latest barb from showing up at her posh Knightsbridge flat to reveal a mad infatuation for the woman who panned him, a declaration that might leave the fair Cornelia unmoved were Gerrard Castle (Shawn Savage) not blessed with “the cheeks, the eyes, the mouth, the little mole on his right ear” of a bad-boy rock star.
Unfortunately for Gerrard, Cornelia has been romantically involved with banker Alex Bradley (Martin Thompson) for “more than a year, less than a decade,” and nothing would make Alex happier than to put a ring on Cornelia’s finger if only she’d say yes.
Ongoing romantic entanglements do not stop Gerrard from persisting in his courtship, and before long he and Cornelia have become more than artist and critic, much more, with Cornelia doing her best to keep Alex in the dark, or at the very least in the other room whenever Gerrard is around.
Providing Cornelia with moral support along the way is her longtime chum (and partner in pun-making) Vivianna Allison (Christine Joëlle), who can’t help wishing she were even half as lucky in love as her gorgeous bestie and not still pining after the childhood sweetheart of her pre-big-city days.
Playwright Kane juggles these four attractive, witty characters to perfection in Perfect Timing’s frothy first act, then adds four more post-intermission in a second act that combines virtually every classic element of British farce including double entendres galore, oodles of physical comedy shtick, several cases of mistaken identity, and plenty of doors to disappear behind.
The newcomers who show up for Act Two are sassy Texas cowgal Laura O’Hara (Sarah Kaidanow), spicy French coquette Lulu Laroche (Ally Fanbarg), veddy-veddy proper British Foreign Secretary Joseph Foxworth (Dennis Bersten), and cuddly North-Country duck-and-apple farmer Joseph Dingham (Thomas Webb), whose connections to the Act One bunch (or to each other) I’ll leave it to you to discover.
Suffice it to say that playwright Kane makes sure that each and every one of the aforementioned octet shows up for Perfect Timing’s perfectly delicious climactic scene, one whose final coupling may not be quite the one you are expecting.
If your curiosity hasn’t yet been sufficiently piqued to head on over to Theatre 40, let me add that Perfect Timing has been masterfully directed by Bruce Gray, whose comedic touch here is as deft as his dramatic punch was in previous T40 hits as Double Door, Flare Path, and The Voysey Inheritance (to name just three Gray-directed smashes).
As for its leading lady, if ever a play shouted “star vehicle,” it is this one, which is why Los Angeles audiences can rejoice that West End-to-Broadway-to-Beverly Hills transplant Anker makes her L.A. theater debut in Perfect Timing.
Anker’s dazzling Cornelia has it all—beauty, sophistication, elegance, wit, and bona fide star quality, and the UK native is supported by a couldn’t-be-more-perfect cast of T40 regulars and newcomers.
Joëlle tones down her beauty behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles, the better to do the grand Eve Arden-Vivian Vance sidekick tradition proud as Vivianna, while a Cockney-accented Savage gives Gerrard a rough-and-sexy allure just right for the part, and the ever suave Thompson proves the next best thing to Noël Coward as Alex.
Gersten gives Foxworth a wry, quirky appeal, Fainbarg is an oh-la-la-luscious Lulu, recent USC grad Kaidanow does the Lone Star State proud as Texas tornado Laura, and Webb has just the right rustic James Corden charm for farmer Joseph.
Scenic designer Jeff G. Rack’s elegant London flat looks ritzy enough to move into, Michèle Young’s costumes are not only chic delights, each scene features one more stunning than the one before, and Ric Zimmerman lights both set and costumes with accustomed pizzazz, sound designer Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski coming up with just the right mood music and effects along the way.
Perfect Timing is produced by David Hunt Stafford. Richard Carner is stage manager and Don Solosan is assistant stage manager, with stage hand Kori Beth Kaye completing the behind-the-scenes team.
Once again audiences can thank Theatre 40 for giving new life to a largely forgotten gem. With so much gone wrong in today’s world, timing couldn’t be more perfect for the champagne-effervescent Perfect Timing.
Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.
December 2, 2015
Photos: Ed Krieger