1. Stage

Review: Frivolity and substance drive 'One Slight Hitch' at American Stage

One Slight Hitch, a comedy by Lewis Black, follows a family in chaos on the day of daughter Courtney’s wedding as her former boyfriend shows up.
Published Jul. 14, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — We often assess theatrical works, and even make choices about which ones to see, by the adjectives attached to them: a light or dark comedy, a wrenching or uplifting drama.

As much as we might allow such thumbnail phrases to push us to click "Add to Cart" and buy tickets, we secretly hope the show will outdo its description and be more than the same warhorse you saw 20 years ago but with a different cast.

One Slight Hitch, the last production of the season by American Stage, is a light comedy. Lewis Black, who you might know from The Daily Show, wrote it in the early 1980s after a series of darker one-acts, prompting some purists to accuse him of selling out.

Black revised it over the decades, not to make it more current but to firmly affix the play in 1981. The set at American Stage by Greg Bierce includes a disco ball, which drives the nostalgia home during scene changes. Director Gavin Hawk, who doubles as sound designer, takes advantage of these darkened interludes to play Bruce Springsteen (Hungry Heart), Rick Springfield (Jessie's Girl) or Kim Carnes (Bette Davis Eyes, the number-one song of 1981).

The music plays as narrator P.B. Coleman (Regan Moore) dances to her Walkman. She's the kid sister of Courtney, a writer who is to be married that day in the home of her upper class parents.

Most of the action follows the plot lines of a sitcom or farce, full of calamity and dashed expectations. The driver of the plot is not Courtney, the bride, or even artist vagabond Ryan (Jordan Foote), her former boyfriend who stops by the house the day of her wedding, fresh off a hike in the mountains.

The heating element that brings the comedy to a boil is Delia Coleman (Karel K. Wright), Courtney's mother, a control freak who is determined to pull off the perfect wedding. She is enamored by Harper (Brian Shea), the clinical psychologist who has somehow swept Courtney off of her previously "unsweepable" feet.

For most of the first act, Delia frets over the florist's arrival while others try to hide the fact Ryan is wandering the house in a towel, waiting for his clothes to come out of the dryer.

Watching and sometimes contributing to the chaos are Courtney's father, Doc Coleman (Brian Webb Russell), and friend Melanie, a hard-drinking nurse played by Jonelle Marie Meyer. Actors unabashedly go for over-the-top hilarity. In one scene, for example, Melanie crawls along the top of the couch in an attempt to seduce Ryan. In another, the entire family restrains an increasingly unhinged Delia, who has grabbed a fire poker.

Thankfully, this zaniness is balanced by thoughtful commentary on whether the kind of romantic love captured in the World War II generation, sweetly realized by Doc and Delia, is even possible anymore. A mesmerizing performance by Wright brings out hidden jewels within the script.

Granted, the silliness it also contains can try patience. You wait for the play to turn into something, preferably something that is not wacky — because beneath all of the zaniness lurks good dialogue and promise — and this production eventually delivers. Jennifer Christa Palmer, as Courtney, skillfully seizes on those moments when hi-jinx give way to substance, and guides this play home.

The fact that she and the surrounding cast can do that shows that there was a method to the madcap after all. The unlikely messages left in its wake also show that One Slight Hitch is more than just another comedy, if not much more.

Contact Andrew Meacham at or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.


  1. Julie Andrews, at right, and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton took fans' questions in a Q&A at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Nov. 13, 2019. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The stage and screen icon came to Clearwater to discuss her new memoir ‘Home Work’ and a wide range of other topics.
  2. Kevin James appears in his 2018 Netflix special "Don't Never Give Up." Courtesy of KC Bailey
    Plus, ‘Once on This Island,’ the Tampa Bay Symphony and the Florida Orchestra.
  3. John Leguizamo will bring his one-man show "Latin History for Morons" to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Nov. 17. Courtesy of Matthew Murphy
    Plus, how his ‘House of Buggin’ became ‘Mad TV’ and a dream project about a Hispanic Oscar Schindler. Leguizamo’s one-man show comes to the Straz Center on Nov. 17.
  4. "Fiddler on the Roof" is at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Courtesy of Joan Marcus
    The revival of a pointed story about tradition stays close to the source. | Review
  5. Comic John Crist has canceled his upcoming tour, including a May 10, 2020 concert at Tampa's Yuengling Center, following a report by the Christian publication Charisma News alleging multiple instances of sexual misconduct. Courtesy of John Crist
    The viral star’s Netflix special and tour are on hold after a report alleging sexual misconduct.
  6. Julie Andrews will appear in conversation at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Nov. 13. Courtesy of Andrew Eccles
    The 84-year-old Hollywood icon will discuss her new autobiography this week at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
  7. Julie Andrews arrives at the Los Angeles Philharmonic 2015-16 season opening gala at Walt Disney Concert Hall. RICHARD SHOTWELL  |  Invision/AP
    Plus, comics Jay Mohr and Cristela Alonso, the Florida Orchestra’s ‘Deep Field’ with Eric Whitacre and more.
  8. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater is undergoing a $12 million renovation/ expansion. Progress is seen here Wednesday, October 30, 2019. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The 6,000-square-foot entryway opens this weekend, showcasing the venue’s most extensive facelift to date.
  9. Jobsite Theater's "The Thanksgiving Play" features Caitlin Eason, Giles Davies, Dana Mauro and Adam Workman. It runs through Nov. 17 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for Performing Arts in Tampa. Courtesy of Jobsite Theater
    Larissa FastHorse’s witty satire at Jobsite Theater mocks political correctness as well as theater itself. | Review
  10. "Fiddler on the Roof" will come to the Straz Center in Tampa on Tuesday as part of its 2019-20 Broadway series. Courtesy of Joan Marcus
    Plus, Mo’Nique, Bianca Del Rio and more.