Theatre Review: “Plaza’s DEAR RUTH Is One To Write Home About”

Dear-Ruth-web

Plaza’s ‘Dear Ruth’ is one to write home about

Comedy plays through Oct. 5 in Cleburne

They should have waited.

The Plaza Theatre Company could have waited until a break in the schedule to install its 158 new theater seats, but decided instead to introduce them during the current production of “Dear Ruth.”

Big mistake, since the audience didn’t get to enjoy them, spending most of the night falling out of their seats with laughter at this fast-paced comedy, the kind that PTC — along with musicals — does so well.

There are two casts, each with Plaza veterans (Luke Hunt, Jay Cornils, Tabitha Barrus) so it really doesn’t matter which one you see, although two main characters played by fan-favorite Jonathan Metting and quickly-becoming-a-fan-favorite David Goza remain the same in both versions.

Otherwise, both casts are sprinkled with experienced actors making their return to the stage after absences for various reasons, and newcomers who perform with seasoning under the direction of Taffy Geisel, who most recently arose from her director’s chair (“Happiest Millionaire,” “Annie”) to play Miss Myrtle, one of the two Bible-toting old holier-than-thou gossips she created for Amen Corner in the “Smoke on the Mountain” trilogy.

The story takes place in the living/dining room of the Kew Gardens, Long Island, N.Y., home of Edith and Judge Harry Wilkins on a weekend in August 1944, when Lt. Bill Seawright (Goza) returns from the war to meet and hopefully marry the Wilkins’ oldest daughter, Ruth, played by Kelly Nickell in the production I attended and double-cast with Tabitha Barrus.

Apparently, Ruth has been corresponding with Seawright via dozens of romantic letters, inspirational poems and words of encouragement to help him get through the war. She also sent her photograph. He has responded in kind and now shows up unannounced to meet her. Except Ruth did not send the letters and knows nothing about them. They were sent by her younger sister, Miriam (double cast with Rachel Browning and PTC rookie Brooke Verbois) who included a photo of her older sister.

When Ruth discovers the ruse, she goes along with the charade in the hopes that she can get through the weekend without having to confront Seawright.

But we all know it won’t go smoothly, especially when we’re introduced to Ruth’s fiance, Albert Klummer, played by Metting, fresh off his funny turn as Rev. Oglethorp in “Smoke.”
Even when he is not the center of attention, watch Metting’s facial expressions. He is focused and funny.

Every the-sky-is-falling comedy needs a steady anchor and that’s where Judge Wilkins rules, played with confidence by Hunt (for the performance I attended), who delivers his clever lines with perfect timing. There’s no reason to think veteran Cornils won’t do likewise on the nights he plays the judge.

Katy Wood (double cast with Cheryl King) plays Edith Wilkins, and her give and take with her husband provide some light-hearted and warm moments.

Some new characters are added in the second act which makes you think you’ve got things figured out, but you don’t.

“Dear Ruth” doesn’t have the surprise ending of “The Foreigner,” or the slapstick silliness of “See How They Run,” but it’s cute, clever, funny and fun.

Write yourself a note to see it.

You’ll also enjoy the new deep-burgundy seats that have more padding and stability and are higher off the ground than their predecessors.

From a play by Norman Krasna (who also wrote “White Christmas”), with costumes by Tina Barrus, sound by G. Aaron Siler, lights by Cameron Barrus and set design and construction by JaceSon Barrus and Justin Diyer, “Dear Ruth,” is presented at 7:30 p.m.  Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 5 at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St. in Cleburne.

Tickets — $15 for adults, $14 for age 65 and older and high school and college students, and $13 for children age 13 and under — can be purchased online at http://www.plaza-theatre.com, or at the box office from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or by phone at 817-202-0600.

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