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Double bill: Peninsula Players stage ‘Black Comedy,’ ‘Son Also Rises’

Peter Shaffer’s play, opening Nov. 9, is a light comedy – even when it’s dark

By Patrick Webb

For Coast Weekend

Published on November 7, 2018 9:23AM

Last changed on November 7, 2018 12:38PM

Mixed up in the dark, Patrick Buckley, left, plays an eccentric German art buyer and Melissa Goldberg portrays an electrician called Schuppanzigh who arrives to fix the lights in ‘Black Comedy,’ the latest production from Peninsula Players in Ilwaco, Wash.

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Mixed up in the dark, Patrick Buckley, left, plays an eccentric German art buyer and Melissa Goldberg portrays an electrician called Schuppanzigh who arrives to fix the lights in ‘Black Comedy,’ the latest production from Peninsula Players in Ilwaco, Wash.

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In the dark, Kathy Warnert takes a tumble as her social-climbing fiancé, played by Barry Sears, moves some stolen furniture in ‘Black Comedy,’ a play by Peter Shaffer being staged in Ilwaco the next two weekends. When the lights are on, the characters think they are in the dark, and vice versa.

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In the dark, Kathy Warnert takes a tumble as her social-climbing fiancé, played by Barry Sears, moves some stolen furniture in ‘Black Comedy,’ a play by Peter Shaffer being staged in Ilwaco the next two weekends. When the lights are on, the characters think they are in the dark, and vice versa.

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While neighbors, played by Rose Power and Kevin Perry, wait for the lights to come back on, an artist, played by Barry Sears, tries to carefully move stolen furniture without them knowing.

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While neighbors, played by Rose Power and Kevin Perry, wait for the lights to come back on, an artist, played by Barry Sears, tries to carefully move stolen furniture without them knowing.

An artist played by Barry Sears is tempted away from his fiancée when his former mistress, played by Natasha Beals, arrives unexpectedly at his apartment and discovers everyone is in the dark because of a power failure.

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An artist played by Barry Sears is tempted away from his fiancée when his former mistress, played by Natasha Beals, arrives unexpectedly at his apartment and discovers everyone is in the dark because of a power failure.

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Let there be light. Cast members appearing in Peninsula Players’ latest show, ‘Black Comedy,’ test their flashlights. At front are Patrick Buckley, left, and Melissa Goldberg. Others, left to right, are Natasha Beals, Jim Tweedie, Kevin Perry, Rose Power, Barry Sears and Kathy Warnert.

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Let there be light. Cast members appearing in Peninsula Players’ latest show, ‘Black Comedy,’ test their flashlights. At front are Patrick Buckley, left, and Melissa Goldberg. Others, left to right, are Natasha Beals, Jim Tweedie, Kevin Perry, Rose Power, Barry Sears and Kathy Warnert.

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In the dark, the cast of ‘Black Comedy’ moves carefully through the cluttered apartment. Left to right are Rose Power, Kathy Warnert, Barry Sears, Kevin Perry and Jim Tweedie. Sears and Warnert play an engaged couple who have stolen neighbor Perry’s character’s antique furniture in an attempt to impress her father, played by Jim Tweedie, right.

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In the dark, the cast of ‘Black Comedy’ moves carefully through the cluttered apartment. Left to right are Rose Power, Kathy Warnert, Barry Sears, Kevin Perry and Jim Tweedie. Sears and Warnert play an engaged couple who have stolen neighbor Perry’s character’s antique furniture in an attempt to impress her father, played by Jim Tweedie, right.

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Andy Taubner, director of ‘Black Comedy.’

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Andy Taubner, director of ‘Black Comedy.’

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Peninsula Players will also perform ‘The Son Also Rises,’ a short comedy by Ocean Park writer Robert Brake. Pictured are Melissa Goldberg and Jim Tweedie, right, as the Lomans, in conflict with their son, played by Patrick Buckley.

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Peninsula Players will also perform ‘The Son Also Rises,’ a short comedy by Ocean Park writer Robert Brake. Pictured are Melissa Goldberg and Jim Tweedie, right, as the Lomans, in conflict with their son, played by Patrick Buckley.

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Forget the actors for a moment. The most important person in Peninsula Players’ latest show is the lighting technician.

That’s because the theatrical premise of “Black Comedy” is that when the stage lights go out, the actors behave as if they are on. And when the lights come on, they act as if all around them is dark.

The comic result, according to director Andy Tauber, is a show that is “extremely hysterical.”

Tauber retired to the Long Beach Peninsula after a career that included working behind the scenes in Hollywood. He stage-managed the show while attending Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California, and later directed it for a Bay Area dinner theater. “The gimmick is ‘everything that can go wrong goes wrong’ — and then there are other things that can go wrong, too.”

It is his second show for Peninsula Players. In March, he was stage manager for “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

The one-act farce will be performed as a double bill with “The Son Also Rises,” a short comedy by Ocean Park writer Robert Brake. The shows open Friday, Nov. 9, at the River City Playhouse in Ilwaco and run six performances over two weekends.


How it began


For “Black Comedy,” British writer Peter Shaffer began with the reverse lighting premise — then known as “Chinese darkness” — for a one-act play to accompany another show that starred Maggie Smith and Albert Finney.

It made its London debut in 1965 in an era when controversial Ken Tynan was pushing the envelope of experimental theater during the “Swinging Sixties.” Derek Jacobi starred, with Smith and Finney in supporting roles.

The 1967 American production saw the Broadway debuts of Michael Crawford (later the original “Phantom”) as the impoverished sculptor and Lynn Redgrave, a member of Britain’s five-generation acting family, as his fiancée.

Taking these lead roles in the Players’ version are Barry Sears and Players’ newcomer Kathy Warnert. Tauber said Sears plays a “hipster starving artist” seeking to “marry up” who is engaged to a vapid debutante. The pair have stolen expensive antique furniture from a neighbor to adorn their apartment to impress her father, who is played by James Tweedie.

In the reverse-lighting format, the action begins in the dark. A power short-circuit causes the lights to come on.

Natasha Beals, who made her stage debut as the villain’s sidekick in PAPA’s summer production of “Beauty and the Beast,” plays Sears’ character’s former mistress, who shows up unexpectedly; Rose Power is an abstemious neighbor who is inevitably served too many alcoholic drinks during the blackout. “Rose is wonderful doing it,” Tauber said.

Melissa Goldberg portrays a German electrician, Schuppanzigh, who is mistaken for a wealthy art buyer, played by newcomer Patrick Buckley, who the couple are also trying to impress. To complete the mayhem, the neighbor, played by Kevin Perry, returns early and is upset to discover all his furniture is missing.

For the record, the lighting technician is Tauber himself.


Also playing


The title of Brake’s 15-minute comedy, “The Son Also Rises,” echoes the name of the 1926 Hemingway novel, but has nothing to do with bullfighting.

Brake is an author and retired university teacher whose claims to fame include giving journalist Tom Brokaw a “B” grade in a speech class eons before his successful TV career.

Brake and others involved in the production are coy about revealing too many details to avoid spoiling the surprises. But Tauber said it makes a perfect double bill. “I thought it was a fun little play,” he said, recalling when he first saw Brake’s script. “It’s a great opening for ‘Black Comedy’ to get people in the mood.”

The show parodies Arthur Miller’s 1949 Tony Award-winning “Death of a Salesman.” In Brake’s version, subtitled “Willy Loman Redux,” the retired salesman desperately tries to sway his son “Happy” to indulge in a career like his.

Three actors from the “Black Comedy” cast do double duty; Tweedie appears as the salesman, Goldberg is his loyal wife and Buckley appears as Happy.

Giving away anything further would diminish its comic effect, Brake indicated. “That’s all I’d want prospective audiences to know prior to viewing the play.”

In recent years, Brake has become known locally for writing newspaper columns about a range of subjects, including politics and humor. In 2014, he wrote and directed a one-act play called “Dumpty’s Demise,” a comedy exploring whether Humpty Dumpty fell to his death or was murdered.











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