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Review: Richey Suncoast Theatre's 'If a Man Answers' is fun, entertaining

Diane Sloan-Ramos, left, and Paige Buffy Cetnor play mother and daughter Germaine Stacy and Chantal Stacy in If a Man Answers.

MICHELE MILLER | Times

Diane Sloan-Ramos, left, and Paige Buffy Cetnor play mother and daughter Germaine Stacy and Chantal Stacy in If a Man Answers.

Sure, sure, the comedy If a Man Answers is a bit frothy. But sometimes froth can be fun (think light and airy, like the top of a root beer float tickling your nose).

Based on the 1962 movie starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, the show is playing weekends through Jan. 31 at Richey Suncoast Theatre in New Port Richey. Its premise may be dated and sexist — the only goal of woman is to snare a husband, then mislead and manipulate him to keep him in line — but as done by the RST cast and crew, it's also funny and entertaining.

The setup is that young Chantal Stacey (Paige Buffy Cetnor) is crazy to get married. Her proper Bostonian dad, John (a bombastic Doug Ronk), is just as eager to see her off, lest she do something wild and embarrassing before she's safely under the control of another man. Her Parisian mom, Germaine (a lovely Diane Sloan-Ramos), just wants it to be to the right man. That means someone her daughter can train to be a good husband. Mrs. Stacey maintains that husbands are made — by their wives — not born.

The payoff is that Chantal does marry, but she's quickly disillusioned by her husband's seeming indifference. Seems that calendar photographer hubby, Eugene Wright (Jason Hoolihan), prefers to spend his time in his darkroom, rather than shopping with his bride.

That's when Mama lets her darling daughter in on the secret to a happy marriage, as in one where the wife rules, that ends up backfiring. Well, nearly, but telling that gives away too much to those who deserve to be surprised when they go see the show for themselves.

Directors Rich Aront and Vicki McGinnis keep the action moving, as Chantal jumps from job to job looking for Mr. Right. Marie Skelton's costumes let the audience know that the action takes place in the 1950s, so it's to be expected that the women aren't yet liberated.

Even so, directors Aront and McGinnis did some creative casting to give a modern look to an old show. Yes, Cetnor's Chantal is as bright and spunky as the role's creator, and Hoolihan's Eugene is as charming and attractive as crooner Darin.

But instead of the X-ray thin models in the original, the directors chose plus-size women as Eugene's erstwhile girlfriends and current temptresses, as well as for several minor roles. After all, well-nourished women are the latest rage on magazine covers and fashion show runways.

Good choice, especially when they are natural comedians Natalie Pozdol-Arshinkoff, Emily Nettnin Earle and Ali Peterson, all three capable of stealing any scene in which they appear. These three make their roles fit them, instead of the other way around.

Pozdol-Arshinkoff vamps it up as the fiery Spanish model Conchita, then comes on strong as Salome, with an added dash of New Joisey accent. Earle is a hoot as the pushy Belladonna, then Europa, the hotly emotional embodiment of Cleopatra in all her guises and ages. Both are party girls who light up a room, even one as large as a theater.

Peterson's Tina Books, supposedly Chantal's best friend, but really her betrayer, bats her eyes and flirts like a true coquette, as she tries to lure Eugene away from his happy home.

All three do physical comedy that is as sensuous as any siren you can name.

Good laughs are also provided by Christine Stoll, Dee Miller Curran and Ali Lagrant in various roles, from two old ladies shuffling and kibitzing across the scene to a drunk at a wedding party.

Watch out for stage newcomer Roger Kleemichen, whose brief appearance promises good things to come if he opts for future roles.

>>IF YOU GO

If a Man Answers

If a Man Answers, a comedy in two acts, runs weekends through Jan. 31 at Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. Shows are at 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 adults; group and student tickets available, plus fee for credit card purchase. Call (727) 842-6777.

Review: Richey Suncoast Theatre's 'If a Man Answers' is fun, entertaining 01/18/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 6:43pm]
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