Friday, April 24, 2009

Leading Ladies, Wimberley Players, April 17 - May 10

Leading Ladies by Ken Ludwig has all the big-footed clowning of a British pantomime, that venerable, wheezy holiday art form in which the British public hoots and chortles at manly men dressing up as women. Dame Edna is the royalty of that genre, but every middle- and lower-class family wants to attend the local "panto" in December, and British TV comedy sketches will inevitably get around to putting a male comedian into something frilly, and preferably topping him with a hat.

The show is set in 1958. I was surprised when a little research turned up the fact that Ludwig's piece premiered at the Alley Theatre in Houston only five years ago. It has fallen into the warm embrace of community theatres since then. I missed the recent staging in Leander by the Way Off Broadway Community Players, but made up for it this past weekend with the Wimberley Players, at their handsome, intimate playhouse on Old Kyle Road.

Leading Ladies is a goofy masquerade. Two down-on-their-luck British actors of mediocre talent, on a whistle-stop tour of small town Moose Lodges and Elks Clubs, discover in a newspaper left on a train that a $3 million inheritance will soon be available to a young lady and two long-lost cousins, absent for many years in England. Aha! What better scheme for our wayward Brit showmen than to imitate those inheritors? Problem: a closer reading reveals that the lost are women, not men!

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