Jan. 13: If you haven’t discovered Pay-What-You-Can theater nights, you should. Scheduled either just before shows open or soon after, these nights offer a cheap (or completely free, if you really can’t afford to donate anything) way to see local theater, and often with a choice of great seats too. Tacoma Little Theatre and Lakewood Playhouse both offer PWYC nights, and last night I drove down to Lakewood to see “Ring Round the Moon” as part of my Free Arts Month expedition.
It was officially a preview (the show opens tonight) but that didn’t stop the cast doing a fine job of this French comedy of manners by Jean Aouilh (adapted and translated by Christopher Fry.) No, you probably haven’t heard of it, and I hadn’t either, but you’ll instantly recognize the formal but witty style of the script (think Molière or Wilde) and the crazy falling in and out of love (think Shakespeare comedy) that hallmarks a good farce.
Center to the action is a pair of twin brothers, the dashing but scheming Hugo and the lovesick puppy Frederic (both played by a very engaging Matthew Vail.) Hugo invites a common ballerina Isabelle (the pre-Raphaelite Alison Wiles) to shake up the pretension and upper-class humbug of his circle: the mercenary Diana (Nicole Lockett), who loves Hugo but is engaged to Frederic, the flirty mistress Lady India (a sultry Kat Christensen), the grumpy moneybags Messerschmann (August Kelley), the Wilde-ish Romaineville (Jamie Pederson, perfect in the part) and Hugo’s deliciously nasty aunt (Syra Beth Puett, perfectly bitchy.) Kathi Aleman is hilarious as Isabelle’s over-excitable mother, and as the plot thickens the farce twists into ever-funnier spirals.
At over three hours, this play’s a bit too long for its own good. But the set’s lovely (garden gates and a giant rose painted on the floor), and director David Domkoski keeps up a brisk pace. And with the house only half full, I had no problem finding a seat.
Lakewood does two PWYC nights per show; the next one is at 8 p.m. Jan. 20, then March 3 for “My Name is Asher Lev.” Lakewood Playhouse is in the Lakewood Towne Center near the transit center, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd SW, Lakewood. 253-588-0042, www.lakewoodplayhouse.org