Vol. 17, No. 20 – June 26 – July 9, 2024 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Laughter Slaughters on Santa Paula Stage

The Santa Paula Theatre Center continues its season of all comedies with Women in Jeopardy by Wendy MacLeod. Full of good old-fashioned chuckles and guffaws, the cast delivers with tongues firmly in cheek.

Billed as Thelma and Louise meets The First Wives Club, Women n Jeopardy invites the audience to leave logic at the door and just enjoy the frantic and often absurd antics of the characters. The plot is admittedly thin (or complex, depending on how you count the threads), centering around three divorced friends of ages past youth and before senility. There are still wild oats to be sowed, and Liz (Leslie Upson) is fully engaged in this endeavor via her infatuation with her new beau Jackson (Ron Feltner), an odd duck dentist. Striking suspicious chords with Liz’s friends Mary (Jessi May Stevenson) and Jo (Theresa Secor), Jackson proceeds to display signs that lead the ladies to believe he may have a sinister streak. Coincidence? Perhaps.

As suspicions grow, the action becomes increasingly absurd when a local policeman, Kirk (also Ron Feltner) appears to look just like the dentist. Mary and Jo attempt, without success, to alert the police that Jackson may in fact be the serial killer currently being sought based on tiny threads of circumstantial evidence, mostly woven by the fabric of their minds. They cite that Liz’s daughter Amanda (Amber Shea Hodge) plans to go camping in a remote area with Jackson and they fear for her safety. Mary then engages Amber’s off and on boyfriend Trenner (Christopher Craven) in a plot that is completely misconstrued, to Mary’s consternation and the delight of the audience.

The movable set pieces employed in this production provide a panoply of backdrops, while mysterious figures in dimmed lighting gleefully change props to stealthy music. It is as much fun to watch the scene changes as the play itself.

Each of the actors give sterling, enthusiastic, broad performances. As an ensemble, they work beautifully together. Direction by Sarah Broughton is tight and keeps the audience guessing.

Ron Feltner shines in the dual role of Jackson/Kirk, giving each character singularity. Christpher Craven is a blast to watch as he side-winds his way from gawky teenager to would-be lothario.

Leslie Upson is clearly having a grand time throwing caution to the winds, playing her role with abandon. Jessi May Stevenson and Theresa Secor are exemplary foils, Stevenson as the instigator and Secor as the stereotypical oft-overlooked second banana. Both are on high alert as they go above and beyond to “rescue” their friend. Amber Shea Hodge provides the perky playfulness of petulant youth needed to balance the frantic moms.

Women in Jeopardy is an evening of laughs from unexpected points of view. For a good time, call Santa Paula Theatre Center to reserve seats.

Women in Jeopardy continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through July 21, 2024. www.santapaulatheatercenter.org (805) 525-4645

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