M is for the Million

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Hale Center Theater’s production of “M is for the Million” is eminently enjoyable and boldly silly, thanks mostly to an earnest cast that knows the best way to be funny in a farce is by not trying too hard.

The show’s quality certainly doesn’t come from Jack Sharkey’s script, which is approximately like every farce you’ve ever seen, only not as good. It has some funny lines and some highly amusing situations, but it also has several leaps in logic that are too hard to swallow, even for a farce. (It’s also poorly constructed, with a 35-minute first act followed by an hour-long second act.)

The action takes place on a cruise ship in 1935, where Bradley (Brinton Wilkins) and Meg (Cindy Winkel) are about to be married and embark on their honeymoon. Complications arise when Meg’s snooty mother, Lenore (Kim Wares), arrives onboard, and when it’s revealed that Meg is not Meg at all, but Edith Baxter, the famed advice columnist who is also engaged to Hamilton Cabot III (Peter Biggs), who is the ship’s captain.

The “million” of the title refers to a clause in Meg’s dead father’s will, which may indeed be the most convoluted and stupid will in the history of fictitious wills. It states that Meg will inherit $1 million if she is married by age 25 (which is tomorrow!), but only if she doesn’t KNOW she’s going to inherit the money, ’cause if she knew about it, she might rush into getting married just to get the loot, and a rushed marriage would be bad (even though every single character in this play seems willing to get hitched to total strangers at the drop of a hat, thank you very much, Mr. Sharkey). If she doesn’t get married, her mom gets the money, a fact which delights her oily suitor, the extremely Greek Dimitrios (Nathan Wright).

As mentioned, it’s the energetic cast that makes the show work. Brinton Wilkins is very charismatic as Brad, and Cindy Winkel’s Meg is also quite likable. The two of them make a nice, realistic couple — unusual for such a goofy show.

Kim Wares and Nathan Wright prove that dedication to one’s character, no matter how outlandish, will always pay off. As Meg’s debutante mom and her slick paramour, respectively, they earn many laughs simply by being who they are. Many actors would back down at having to go so over-the-top with these roles, but Wares and Wright stay with it all the way through.

Rounding out the cast are Scott Champion as the floppy-armed, occasionally moustached ship steward; Claire Wilkins as Maisie, his talkative fiancee; Carrie Hill as Olympia, Lenore’s Argentine maid; and Lawton Smith as an African missionary who shows up to perform numerous marriage ceremonies at the end.

After the show ends, the cast comes back for a shortened version of the play, with everyone running around, duplicating their actions in the show and swing dancing while they’re doing it. This is a swell idea, and it shows the cast’s enthusiasm, but it goes on for too long. If it were sped up, it would be darn near perfect, and a great way to end the show.

Still, the show is funnier than it deserves to be, and quite an entertaining way to spend the evening. (Warning: This show contains a man in a wedding gown.)

If I never see another man in a wedding dress as long as I live, that will be OK with me.

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