By Ed Goldman
The 1963 movie “Charade” has been called one of the best Alfred Hitchcock movies not directed by him.
Now, the B Street /Sofia stage adaptation of the Stanley Donen classic has been updated, camped-up and resuscitated in high style by an exuberant ensemble of actors, guided by the theatre’s artistic director Lyndsay Burch from a sparkling script by actor/writer David Pierini, who plays multiple roles, as do several of the troupe’s multi-talented regulars.
In the hoary tradition of review writing, I’d have to say that this stellar mounting of “Charade,” which runs until September 18, is a bit like “A Shot in the Dark” Meets “Noises Off.” Adapter Pierini, Director Burch, Scenic Designer Stephen Jones and Projection Designer Jerry Montoya, to name just a few of the talented creators, have turned a semi-sophisticated if crowd-pleasing movie into a just-shy-of-camp quasi-bedroom farce, with slamming doors, hilarious pantomime and serious leaps of logic.
And while Sacramento audiences tend to give standing ovations to the opening of envelopes, this fast-moving romp really deserved the bravos it received at the matinee I attended.
In acting, you usually don’t like to know how hard the actors are working. But when Perini, the spectacular Elisabeth Nunziato and Stephanie Altholz keep turning up as different characters with different accents and body languages, you really feel they’re being underpaid. (In one key scene, one of Perini’s characters kills another one. To say more would make me enter that purgatory known as Spoiler Alert-land.)
Dana Brooke and Jahi Kearse play the leading roles famously originated by Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, and their styles and looks are so different from those two stars that I spent very little time making what would have been unfair comparisons. Their chemistry was just fine, too, and Brooke, despite the slapstick—there’s even a double spit-take moment with her and Pierini—brought a gravitas to the role that was a nice choice. Kearse, as a con man playing several angles was all charm and good cheer, even when his character was in mortal danger. I think it was a wise choice by the director to have the two leads play only the two roles they did, though I’m sure they’re quite capable of the delightful multiplicity displayed by Pierini, Nunziato and Altholz. Burch seemed to recognize that we, the audience, needed something to hang onto.
If you haven’t been to the Sofia at 2700 Capitol Ave., it’s an architectural marvel, with a simultaneous intimacy and grandeur. Its auditorium doesn’t have a bad seat in it and there’s a no-host bar in the lobby, making this venue Sacramento’s liveliest home for the liveliest of arts.
(Tickets are at bstreettheatre.org.)