A fuse blows. Hilarity ensues: A preview of Little Theatre’s “Black Comedy”

By Sydney Bucholtz

Features Editor

A sculptor is readying to showcase his work, and his debutante fiance of six weeks just finished helping him steal their next-door neighbor’s furniture to impress an uppity German critic… Until a fuse blows and the flamboyant next-door neighbor, a batty, booze-loving old woman, a stern Colonel father, an ex of four years, and two Germans find themselves under the same, dark roof.

But this isn’t the start of a joke. This is Black Comedy, Little Theatre’s 2018 spring mainstage production.

The scene is in 1960s London, England and Brindsley Miller, a poor artist, is making the final touches on his newly “furnished” room, with the help of his darling fiance, Carol. In just a few hours, Carol’s father, a no-nonsense Colonel, will meet Miller for the first time since they got engaged weeks ago, and a millionaire art critic, Georgia Bamberger, will arrive to view Miller’s sculptures.

Mike Alessi, Canisius junior, playing Miller, commented about his role in the production. “Brindsley is a nervous wreck, I mean, it’s easy to see that,” he said. “And he’s also the starving artist type. He really cares about his art and wants to get it out there. But I think his own self-worth is determined about the approval of others.”

“He was dating Clea [Miller’s ex-girlfriend of four years] for a while,” Alessi continued, “but after they had a fight and broke up, it seemed as though he started dating Carol in order to fill the void because she gave him nothing but compliments, instead of actual constructive criticism. He also happens to be a compulsive liar and ends up having to cover up for lie after lie throughout the show, and it comes back to haunt him.”

Carol Melkett, fiance, is is being played by Claire Binghaman, a freshman Canisius student. “So Carol is a young, rich girl. She’s literally the essence of a ‘daddy’s girl,’” Binghaman said. “I like to personally think that there’s kind of a chain sort of thing, like Harold takes care of Brin, and Brin takes care of Carol. I almost think that the relationship is less romantic and more like babysitting. I do believe that Carol has feelings for Brindsley. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in her view, like her first love, because I feel like she was the person who always wanted to be with her parents. And maybe this was her first act of independence, which I think is kind of funny because she’s really dependent on Brindsley, which is actually quite Carol, because she always thinks something’s one way when it’s totally not. She’s painstakingly naive.”

The happy couple’s well-crafted plan backfires when the apartment blows a fuse. Shortly after, nearby neighbor Ms. Furnival trickles in, “seeking refuge from the storm,” as she puts it. She is closely followed by Harold Gorringe, a neighbor from across the hall who has just returned from a trip — one that had allowed Miller to steal Gorringe’s lavish furniture to impress the art critic. Following along?

“So my character is Miss Furnival, Brinsley’s upstairs neighbor,” said Shelby Dunning, senior. Dunning described Furnival as being middle-aged, raised by her father who was a minister. “She’s never been married, never had alcohol, and she loves to gossip,” she said. “If you want to know any tea or big gossip, Miss Furnival is your go-to gal.”
“It was really fun getting to develop Miss Furnival’s character,” Dunning continued. “She starts out very nervous and afraid. I felt like she was afraid of the dark mostly because of her experiences during World War II.” Specifically, Dunning commented that she imagines that Furnival experienced bombs having burned her home, and that she still fears the darkness that because of the blackout conditions, when she had to “live in complete darkness after sundown in hopes that it would prevent German air raids and even in that darkness, the bombs still came,” as she described.

“One thing I really enjoyed was even though she was terrified, her love of gossip comforted her,” she said. “Once she really starts letting loose, all the real fun happens. Playing a character who gets highly intoxicated is so much fun! It was so fun to develop how Ferny would react to alcohol and what she would and wouldn’t like. Overall, it has been such a joy to play this character. I always would joke that Ferny and I have a bit in common and I loved bringing a little bit of my own personality to such a hilarious character.”

Furnival has an admiration for Gorringe’s refinement and decency, traits which, she laments, are not often present in modern times. Jacob Ducoli, a senior playing Gorringe in this production, commented about his role. “Harold is very emotionally manipulative, and I guess he kind of wears his heart on his sleeve,” he said. “He’s very sexual as well, he’s not afraid to hide it. He’s someone that very much demands attention, and if he doesn’t get it… And he’s very fashion-forward, like, I feel like if he was on Project Runway he’d do very well.”

“Eileen [Dugan] kept giving me notes about being over the top,” Ducoli continued, “and she kept telling me that he was a screaming queen. And I remember in my audition, I read the description and thought to myself that I don’t even really have to act.”

Amidst the time constraints, line memorizations, and late rehearsals, Katie Gaisser, Black Comedy’s Stage Manager kept the actors on track throughout the show’s process. “I had such an amazing time stage managing this show,” Gaisser said. “As the stage manager, my job was to schedule rehearsals, work alongside our talented director, Eileen Dugan to make sure that the actors get all of their blocking and other acting notes, and I think my favorite part of the position is that I can be there to help the cast succeed in this production, and truly be the best that they can be. I love being there to help them, and I’m so proud of the work that they have done and the show that they have brought to life.”

Gaisser added that the cast had an “unbelievable” energy. “Their ability to get through this rigorous production really shows what great actors they are,” she said. Gaisser also commented about how this play is a comedy, while the club has recently produced some more dramatic plays. “It’s pretty easy to put on a dramatic production, but comedy is tricky,” she said. “The comedic timing, not being too over the top, but still being ‘larger than life,’ the slapstick of the show, learning to fall without hurting yourself, it’s all a very thin line to walk. At the beginning I was a little nervous about it, since we tend to do dramas and not comedies, but this cast has blown me away. They picked up on notes so quickly, and all of them were eager to improve.”                                                        

After these weeks of hard work, late nights, and lots of lines, the cast and crew of this production have pulled off three shows so far, but luckily, there are still two chances left to reserve your tickets by emailing ltclub@canisius.edu. So unless you want to be left in the dark about what happens to the eight characters that take the stage in Little Theatre’s Black Comedy, make your way to the Marie Maday Theater this Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.         



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