The Gingerbread Lady

Galleon Theatre Group. Marion Cultural Centre. 18 May 2012

Neil Simon’s 'The Gingerbread Lady' takes quite a while to get started, and doesn't really begin to make its point until well into the second act. Former singer Evy returns home after 10 weeks of rehabilitation from an alcohol addiction. With the support of her friends, Evy Attempts to overcome her daughter moving home, her ex-boyfriend trying to beg his way back into her life and a birthday party where 'off the wagon' gets redefined. But Evy's greatest strength will be her biggest weakness; her friends lives are just as messed up as hers and staying on track might be harder than she expected.

Director Andrew Clark has given this production plenty of pace which really helps the relatively mundane situations keep move along. Aldo Longobardi gives loads of energy to the highly camp wanna-be star Jimmy. Longobardi's characterisation is solid and his accent consistent and strong. Joanne St-Claire is formidable as Evy; when left alone on stage Sinclair didn't struggle to fill it. Rachel Burfield as Toby  is prissy and poised at every moment, even in the face of her own divorce. As a former beauty queen coming to terms with age Burfield is wonderfully desperate. Luke Budgen as Lou spoke a little quickly in the first act and was occasionally difficult to understand, but was believable as Evy's former lover and Carla Hardie as Polly was the perfect daughter. Hardie had great elocution and a great control over stillness (which was a wonderful contrast to a lot of pacing and running about by many other characters). Ben Todd as the delivery boy Manuel added a nice touch of comedy to the cameo role.

A traditional box set by a huge team of volunteers (no designer credited) was functional, albeit a little ghastly, decorated in the least attractive combination of late 70s, 80s and early 90s miss-matched furniture.

The show hit is straps during the turbulent birthday party in the second act. Everything before and after it, despite great work from the cast, I found difficult to really get into. With enough comings and goings to constitute a farce, but whilst still trying to tackle some pretty major issues, this play felt like it had a bit of an identity crisis, which just didn't work for me. This is a solid production, with a talented cast - but Neil Simon’s early foray into combining comedy with serious dramatic subject matter is a writing failure for me.

Paul Rodda

When: 16 to 26 May
Where: Marion Cultural Centre