Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Stage

'Amorous Ambassador' is a randy romp full of laughs

If you liked last season's The Sensuous Senator at Richey Suncoast Theatre, you'll love this season's The Amorous Ambassador, another hilarious chapter in the life of that hound dog philanderer Harry Douglas, playing weekends through Nov. 3.

In the first chapter, he was a U.S. senator. Now he has been promoted to the dignified position of U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. But he's still up to his old tricks, panting after every woman who comes into his sight, even his own daughter's best friend, and dropping trou at the sound of any voice above middle C.

Written by the master of modern American farce, Michael Parker, it has all the double entendres, innuendoes, slamming doors, barely missed encounters, sight gags, skimpy outfits and bed-hopping as most Parker farces, done by eight characters, each one wackier than the one before.

Director Robin New brought back award-winning actor Bob Marcela to play Harry Douglas, and Marcela justifies her confidence in him, creating a politician who breezily gets elected on "family values," then behaves as though the only thing he values is a new sex partner.

"Sex isn't everything, you know," his latest paramour, neighbor Marian Murdock (Christine Stoll), tells him shortly after they meet for a tryst.

"If that's what you think, you're not doing it right," Harry shoots back.

The fun starts when Harry's wife, Lois (a charming Kitty Cappelli), announces that she's off to a resort for some R&R. Harry says he's going hunting in Scotland (wink-wink), and daughter Debbie (Natalie Pozdol) says she's off to visit a gal pal for the weekend. Each of them has secret plans for some sexy fun and urges the dignified English butler Perkins (Walt Pellock) to be discreet, which he swears he will.

The moment Harry thinks the family is gone, he invites Marion over. But daughter Debbie has the same idea and invites her boyfriend, Joe (Rich Aront), too. Moments later, the blustery Marine Capt. South (Mark Lewis) arrives with Harry's dimbulb secretary Faye Baker (Heather Clark), announcing that the embassy has had a bomb threat and operations are being moved to the ambassador's country home. This means that father, daughter, mistress and boyfriend are locked in together for the weekend, all of them trying to sneak in some sex time without getting caught.

Despite some opening night problems with body mikes and a few long pauses for lines to be remembered, the two-hour show is nonetheless loads of fun, thanks to outstanding work by the players. Lewis is a hoot as the quintessential military man, dashing about barking orders, pointing here, pointing there, crawling around looking for spies, suspecting everyone, all the while misunderstanding everything and stumbling and falling all over himself. Over the years, Lewis has shown himself a master of zany physical humor, and this is one of his most enjoyable performances.

Pellock is a joy as Perkins the butler (note the far-off horse whinny, a la Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein, when his full name is mentioned), properly unctuous but all-knowing. Ms. Clark is a doll as the ditzy secretary whose entire conversation seems to be non sequiturs. When Capt. South orders her to send an urgent message to Langley, Va., he starts looking for a "long-legged virgin." When she struggles to lift a dead-weight, fallen Capt. South, she mutters, "Now I know why my mother said never pick up a Marine."

Ms. Pozdol and Ms. Stoll are both acting naturals, completely at ease on the stage and totally inhabiting their characters. Aront is riotous as boyfriend Joe, transformed with a glittery gown into "girlfriend Josephine," when he's caught in Debbie's bedroom. Men dressed as women always seem funny, but Aront's Josephine is especially comical, mainly because Aront is a fine comic actor no matter what he plays.

The Amorous Ambassador is a lighthearted, sometimes lightweight, piece of entertainment, appealing to grownups who enjoy innocuous sex talk, playful sex romps and lots of laughs.

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