Heâ€™s charming, heâ€™s debonair, heâ€™s sophisticated, and when youâ€™ve got a problem, you better call Psmith â€“ thatâ€™s Ronald Eustace Psmith (â€œthe P is silent, like pterodactylâ€). You could feel the fun Goddardâ€™s Music and Drama Club (MAD) Treasurer Randy Barth had in the role as that debonair fixer, created by British author P.G. Wodehouse (15 October 1881 â€“ 14 October 1975). Director Jon Gardner, Costume Designers Millie Tansill and Suzanne Smith and Props Designer Lynne Slater helped make Leave It to Psmith a cozy evening of comedy most British.
The delight of the show was the many witticisms thrown about by Psmith: â€œI detect a mild annoyance in your reply,â€ or â€œ[you have] an unfortunate personal appearanceâ€ or â€œ[your reply had] a nasty, hollow clang.â€
Taking place in the fictional Blandings Castle, the centerpiece of the plot was a coveted, simple macguffin: a necklace that belonged to ditzy and shady Freddie Boshamâ€™s stepmother, Lady Middlewick. From there, as he worked on Freddieâ€™s behalf, Psmith hatched a Tom Sawyer-worthy scheme â€“ something to do with a Â£5,000 British pound check and Freddie becoming a partner in a company so he can marry the girl he adored, Phyllis Jackson. To help pull this off, Psmith impersonated a Canadian poet, Ralston McTodd. With two low-level crooks throw in, it was hard to tell who was an accomplice to whom.
The show sported a sizeable number of props, from umbrellas to potted plants to guns; Slater did an amazing job with said props. Along with Malumuth, Slater provided impressive set decoration. Malumuthâ€™s set design included a cleverly made subway platform. The always spot-on Steve Beitzell provided sound effects such as rain.
Top hats and tails for men and lavish dresses for women â€“ 1920s style â€“ added a touch of elegance to the show; costume Designers Tansill and Smith earned their proverbial paychecks. I loved the moonlight provided by Lighting Designer Jodi Vezzetti (recently involved in Perfect Arrangement). The choreography of Katrina Jackson had several on-stage couples putting on the ritz in a dancing/party scene at the top of Act 2.
Jeff Pattison was British-as-hell as Lord Middlewick, a goofy character good for mostly losing his glasses. Pattison affected an on-the-nose accent throughout his performance. I liked how John McCloskey, seen last spring in MADâ€™s Weird Romance, created a strong impression from his role of a butler named Bellows.
James Olsen made Freddie Bosham fast-talking and a bit of a con man. I liked Laura Hope Shapiroâ€™s interplay with Olsen, as Freddie Boshamâ€™s fiancÃ©e Phyllis Jackson.
Sarah Nechamen and David Buckingham played the sketchy Aileen Peavey and Eddie Cootes, in a comically seedy manner.
Courtney Ritz excelled as Lady Middlewick and MADâ€™s Beauty and the Beast veterans Eve and Nathan Sanders played Agatha Crofton/Gladys Rumbelow and Christopher Walderick respectively. George Tansill hilariously played the â€œrealâ€ poet Ralston McTodd.
There was a pre-show cabaret that featured the vocals of Kathy Nieman, Shawn Perry, Richard Richardson and Angie Russo. Breon played piano and Tony Miller, guitar. Some of the songs featured were â€œLook for the Silver Liningâ€, sang by Nieman; â€œApril Showersâ€, sang by bass-baritone Perry; and â€œSomeone to Watch Over Meâ€ by Russo.
Director Gardner wrote of his show: â€œâ€¦our play is a labor of love as a group of people work together to create living art.â€ The show had a playful spirit and was great fun, but there were a few problems. The acoustics were uneven in places, and some actors needed to project more. I would have preferred to see doors in lieu of curtains, stage right and left. Some of the British accents came and went â€“ some werenâ€™t there at all.
Perhaps the recent Federal Government shutdown affected the production. As producers Alethia Young, Eliot Malumuth and Susan Breon wrote: â€œThis year we added one more challenge: a 35-day government furloughâ€¦we were locked out of Goddard, with no place to meet and, what was worse, no place to hold auditionsâ€¦we werenâ€™t even sure we would have a place to rehearse or put on the show.â€
MAD has produced a witty and enjoyable show. This play piqued my interest in the world of P.G. Wodehouse. Itâ€™s certain to pick up increasing audience members via word of mouth throughout its run.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, with two intermissions.
Leave It to Psmith plays through April 6, 2019, at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centerâ€™s Music and Drama Club at the Barney & Bea Recreation Center â€“ 9998 Good Luck Road, Glenn Dale, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 301-966-2MAD or go online.
Note: The entrance is an unmarked gate into Goddard Space Flight Center. You will see a guard in a car with its lights flashing.