Lo and Behold

In its ongoing effort to bring us obscure comedies of the 1940s and earlier, the Hale Center Theater in Orem presents “Lo and Behold,” a harmless, unusual little piece about a guy who tries unsuccessfully to haunt his own house.

Milo Alcott (Fred Derbyshire) is a crotchety, reclusive author on a strict diet. Finally tired of not being able to enjoy himself, he eats a sumptuous meal that promptly kills him. The end.

Just kidding. He does die, but there’s more: He told his doctor, Robert (Mitch Hall), that when he died, he wanted his house to remain unoccupied. Why? Because HE wants to live in it, as a ghost, without interruption. Heaven and its social life aren’t for him; “Why should I be condemned to spend an eternity mixing with people I’ve successfully avoided all my life?” he says as grumpily and cynically as he says everything else.

So the ghost Milo returns to his house, where, to his great consternation, there are three other spirits already living. These are a few of the strangest characters you’ll see in a play anytime soon. There’s a boy-crazy Indian girl named Minnie (Thora Sutton), a ditzy Southern belle named Honey (Lynette Webb) (you can tell she’s Southern ’cause she calls everyone “Sugar”), and a flamboyant, mincing composer named Kenneth (C. Morgan Hanners).

As Milo fusses and fumes about his loss of privacy, his still-living former maid Daisy (Amanda Webb), who now is pretending to be his long-lost daughter, starts living in the house, simultaneously wooing Dr. Robert. She’s got a secret life, though, with Jack (Jake Suazo), an oily, meat-faced gambler who tries to blackmail everybody, as gamblers are wont to do.

The best scene in the show is when Daisy and Robert sit on the couch, each awkwardly trying to put the moves on the other. Honey, who knows all about goin’ a-courtin’, narrates for the libidinous but apparently inexperienced Minnie exactly what each of the two are thinking (the living people aren’t aware of the spirits surrounding them, of course). Fey composer Kenneth (who is amusingly campy throughout) is as titillated as Honey. Mysogynist Milo tries to talk some “sense” into Robert, but Robert can’t hear what dead people say, so it is to no avail. The scene is hilarious, with all the characters working together to play the comedic situation to its fullest potential.

Aside from that, the show is fitfully amusing, never gut-bustingly funny. It’s never dull, either, though; it’s just a quiet, simple comedy. The ending is abrupt, and none of the characters seem to have really learned anything — indeed, the three stereotyped spirits, for as quirky as they are, don’t add up to much, personality-wise — but hey, it’s fun.

At a recent performance, nearly every performer seemed unsure of his or her lines many times throughout the show. This often detracted from what could have been some good jokes; one can assume that with more performances under their belts, they’ll be more comfortable with the script.

Notice how I said "the 1940s and earlier," instead of something more specific. This is because the play itself gives little indication when, exactly, it takes place; it could be anytime from 1920 to 1940. The costumes suggest the 1930s, but that could just be what the Hale Center went with. Furthermore, despite my substantial prowess on the Internet, I am unable to find any site that even MENTIONS the play or its author. It's an American play, and it's not all that funny; that's about all I know.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that this was the third play I'd seen at the Hale Center Theater Orem that dealt with dead people getting involved in living people's lives. One of them was even written by the Hale Center Theater. What's with the death obsession up there? Hello? Can I get you something?