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A CurtainUp Review
The Solid Gold Cadillac
For those who came in late to this kind of comedy, the pace is slow, the repartee somewhat predictable and the outcome fairly obvious from the first few lines. So what? Novelty can be over-rated when all you need is a couple of hours of amusing distraction which is this Cadillac's destination. Besides, there's not a booze-addled character, celebrity impersonator or dysfunctional family (unless you count the business leaders as a family). What a pleasant change for theatergoers.
The plot: Laura Partridge (played by Nancy Robinette with an authentic inquisitiveness and strong sense of right and wrong) attends the annual meeting of General Products, a company that makes everything from pins to autos. "If General Products doesn't make it," states the CEO, "there's no money in it." Partridge owns ten stocks and has a way of asking questions that makes the board very uncomfortable. In an attempt to muzzle her, they in turn offer the out of work actress a job of keeping in touch with the stockholders. Their intent is foiled as Mrs Partridge looks out for stockholders whom she calls "the little guys" — including herself. She's a precursor of what are now called whistleblowers. The only difference being that in those days such an activst facedfewer repercussions than today's brave souls who warn of malfeasance.
In cahoots with the former CEO of General Products, now a Senator in Washington, Edward L. McKeever (an honest performance by Michael Goodwin), Mrs. Partridge wins big. In case you missed the Cinderella elements of this story, Studio's production has added a voice over, narrated by Robert Aubry Davis, that spells it out which, unfortunately, leads to overkill.
Leo Erickson gives a very fine, controlled performance as Warren Gillie, a Board member who is a nervous wreck. Watching his hands shake (and no, it's not the dt's) when confronted with documentation of what the company is up to is a wonderful example of an actor making the most of his part but not overplaying it. Laura Dunlop as Amelia Shotgraven, slowly but aptly builds her character from the desperately-shy and eager to please secretary to Mrs Partridge into a confident young woman. It's a nice transition.
Director Paul Mullins has deftly handled Nancy Robinette, an actress who has cornered the market on ditzy women-of-a-certain-age parts at Washington's theatres ( from Florence Foster Jenkins, the socialite coloratura who insisted on singing despite a total lack of talent to the word-mangling Mrs. Malaprop). Set designer James Kronzer has put the corporate offices of General Products, a back office at the same company and Senator McKeever's office in Washington on a revolve. The corporate office, especially, is redolent of the 1950's. Think Mad Men, the television series. Mark Lanks's lighting is particularly effective when Mrs. Partridge addresses, the four men of the Board, who meet four times a year from the audience. Her "Why do you make so much money?" is a question that many people are asking titans of business today.