Jewel Box Theatre continues its 55th season with a double bill of one-act plays. First up is The Ugly Duckling, a comedy by Winnie-the-Pooh creator A.A. Milne.
Set in an undefined fairy tale kingdom, the duckling in question is Princess Camilla, the recipient of a magic spell that fools the world into thinking that she is plain.
While not a stellar play, Duckling has its charms, including fun wordplay. Unfortunately, Jewel Box’s production fails to find its footing early; most of the opening scene falls flat as the actors struggle to get a handle on the dialogue, especially its humorous subtext.
The play comes to life with the entrance of Jackie Smola in full, big-wigged queen drag, nailing the character’s comic pomposity with great physicality and a perfectly ridiculous vocal delivery replete with pitched-up royal affect.
Allyson Rose is lovely as Camilla.
Smart, funny and beautiful, she is perfectly matched with Clint Kubat, in full-on Disney-prince mode. The scene in which they get to know each other, which serves as the heart of the play, is well directed and performed.
By far the better staged of the two shows, Sorry, Wrong Number tells the story of an invalid 1940s New York housewife, Mrs. Stevenson, who during a misconnected phone call overhears a murder plot, of which she might be the intended victim.
It was originally written by Lucille Fletcher as a radio play; co-directors Chuck Tweed and James Gordon do a commendable job of adapting it for the stage, making great use of sound and controlled noir lighting to create a sense of isolation and dread.
They also do a good job of playing up the black comedy of the ghoulishly fun piece, utilizing the same cast for both shows. Smola returns as Mrs. Stevenson, delivering a truly amazing performance.
Mimi Lynch’s excellent costume work is a standout in both pieces, but contrasts with Richard Howells’ shambolic set for Duckling. The few set pieces in Number work well, save for a rather important mural that’s almost too dark to make out.
While Duckling has a rough start, both shows amount to a pretty fun double bill.