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“Cactus Flower” a review

Melbourne Civic Theatre mines gold in its charming and funny production of the 46-year old comedy, “Cactus Flower.”

Abe Burrows wrote and directed the Broadway comedy in 1965 (after a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy), near the high water mark of TV’s then king of situation comedy,”The Dick Van Dyke Show.” So you might expect the safe and simple. But under the direction of Peg Girard, MCT’s trademark good humored naughtiness livens up the show, making it feel fresh and new.

The story concerns an uptight dentist, Julian Winston, who is having an affair with free-spirited Toni. In order to control their relationship, he has told her that he’s married and has three children. Early in the story, Winston decides he wants to marry Toni and thus even stickier subterfuge ensues.

The cast is in top form.

Amber Prine nearly purrs in her baby doll role of Toni Simmons. She’s got a real sweetness which shows nicely on stage. And Michael David Paul…wow…he’s at his comic best in this beatnik role of Igor Sullivan, a next-door writer who befriends Toni. Paul has grown as an actor and exudes ease and confidence.

The funniest visual gags in the show go to Paul and Chandler McRee, who proves the point that there are no small parts.

Randy Caldwell brings out the heightening frustration in poor Dr. Winston, especially when an expensive gift to Toni gets re-gifted to his nurse, Miss Dickinson, the play’s real cactus flower. As the nurse, Tracey Thompson shows some good comic timing and acting strength. She’s a terrific addition to the MCT stage.

Add Linda Lawson to that welcome. Lawson sailed splendidly through high-drama as Big Mama in Surfside’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” earlier this season. Here, as the randy socialite Mrs. Durant, she shows she’s got the comic chops as well.

Gordon Ringer zeroes in on the sleaze as playboy Harvey Greenfield; and Pete Jacobsen is an oily hoot as Latin lover Senor Arturo Sanchez.

While the onstage talent receive their applause, there should also be some big thank-yous to the tech crew and designers. Scenic designer Caroline Osborne and lighting designer Alan Selby have done the impossible — squeezed four locations out of the small MCT space. And sound designer Wendy Reader’s excellent use of music and a variety of speakers moves the action in and out of the acting spaces and establishes mood and time.

MCT has turned into a well-oiled producing machine that keeps churning out the stuff that audiences love. The first weekend was nearly sold out. This is fun, feel-good stuff. Don’t miss out.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “Cactus Flower” runs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 26 at Melbourne Civic Theatre, 817 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. $18 to $20. Call 321-723-6935 or visit www.mymct.org.

1 Comment

  1. I love Cactus Flower, but you’re right. I love Walter Matthau, but a hunk he’s not! I think part of it is the time pieord and part of it is a little more of a farce than romantic comedy. It based on a French play that I haven’t seen, but have always wanted to see.