Thanks heavens for a competent cast- they can sometimes spin gold from straw. Such is the case at West End Players Guild as the world premiere of “Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs” gives us a lot of laughs but some need for character development from young playwright Stephen Peirick. He already has a lot of accomplishments under his belt in the profession, but this one still needs a bit of work.
The most serious complaint I have is lack of credibility. The play centers on two brothers- one who is celebrating his 30th birthday. His older brother has convinced his wife to make a pecan-crusted chicken for the birthday dinner but has failed to remember that his brother is allergic to nuts. After 30 years? As Seth Meyers would say, “Really?” The wife has also clandestinely invited one of her girlfriends from work- hoping the bachelor brother will find her to his liking. On the other hand, the older brother has invited their mother- much to the surprise of his wife who doesn’t want to spoil her plans for a romantic blind date.
It’s all a pretty good premise for lots of laughs but then, besides the nut allergy stretch, the girlfriend and brother hate each other from the start yet wind up sneaking out of the dinner for a night of bar-hopping. Another “Really?”, please. Plus the characters all fail to develop in a believable manner as we already dislike most of them because of their collective selfish and self-centered attitude.
Now to the good stuff. The cast is great- comedy timing from all of them is right on the money. Colleen Backer and Eric Dean White as the almost newlywed couple who still have trouble communicating are both right on the mark. Mr. White reacts as well as he acts so you see some hilarious facial expressions and set-up pauses for the jokes that really bring them home. John Foughty is a perfect patsy as the birthday boy as he would rather suffer than hurt anyone’s feelings.
Jan Meyer is perfectly bossy as the mother. Reminiscent of Allison Janney in films like “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” she has perfect comic timing in delivering one zinger after another. Sarajane Alverson rounds out the cast as the friend who takes control of the milquetoast Cameron and gives us one of the best drunks on stage we’ve seen in some time. Robert Ashton has directed with a flair for comedy and has brought as much out of the characters as possible within the parameters of the script.
Playwright Stephen Peirick obviously has a lot of talent. He really has a turn of phrase and can write Neil Simon-like one-liners with conviction. But a more plausible premise and stronger and more likable character development would enhance this already very funny evening of theatre.
“Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs” plays at West End Players Guild through March 4th. Contact them at http://www.westendplayersguild.org for tickets or more information on this show and their upcoming season.