Monday, April 22, 2019


ANTAEUS continues with the tradition of partner casting allowing audiences to compare and contrast performances in Diana of Dobson's by Cicely Hamilton. This is a review of The Pots cast.

 Miss Diana Massingbred (Abigail Marks) is a poorly paid and impatient shopgirl at Dobson's Draperies in London, circa 1908.  Diana, shares quarters with other employees who stand all day to sell linens.  Casey Stangl's direction sets a break neck pace that serves the characters but races along at such speed that there's hardly time to take a breath.  In the very rapid first act, we learn that Diana makes five shillings a week: or about one pound sterling a month. She rants and raves about the poor treatment that she and the other girls must weather.   A letter comes for Diana announcing that a distant cousin has passed away.  Diana's share of his estate will come to Three Hundred Pounds! Roughly, this is the equivalent of twenty five years income at her present salary!  

An overseer of the girls, Miss Pringle (Eve Gordon, later Mrs. Cantalupe) enters to put the girls to bed and turn out the gas lights. With her new found wealth, all of the animosity that the shopgirls have kept silent about bubbles up in Diana.  In a back and forth with Pringle that liberates her from her life of drudgery, she decides to take the cash and blow it on a month of living the life of a rich widow. Diana now has the luxury of telling Pringle what she really thinks of the whole rotten situation with the line, "Miss Pringle, you are no longer in a position to bully me, so take my advice and don't try it on!" Black Out!

We have been pulled along with snapping dialogue to be dumped into darkness and the fastest first act in the west.  A stunned audience murmurs in a confused state as the house lights come up and stage hands set to work changing the scenery for Act II.  

As Stangl has arranged for fluid movements by the supernumeraries later in the play, to not use them to do a routine to transform the Dobson's dormitory into the fancy Hotel Engadine may have been a mistake. The flow of the piece has great energy and should be kept going. It's an opportnity to engage the audience with the business of what we all accept: it's a play! Let us watch the scene change.

The first act racing along showed exemplary performances by Ms Marks, Ms Gordon and the other shopgirls (Cindy Nyugen, Krystal Roche, Shannon Lee Clair, Kristen Ariza) but skidding to a complete stop is a bad choice.

Diana has taken her three hundred pound windfall and travels to the Hotel Engadine, a luxury resort in the Alps. 
John Bobek and Abigail Marks
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography
She enters in beautiful regalia and charms the other visitors, prompting a proposal of marriage by the business tycoon, Sir Jabez Grinley (John Apicella)  and pulls at the heart strings of the younger and probably more desirable Captain Bretherton (John Bobek).  Diana leaves behind an air of mystery. but eventually comes clean revealing her true status to Bretherton just as he dregs up the fortitude to expose his feelings of love.  That nips his ardor in the bud.

Hamilton's message, that money is power and the superficial business of putting on airs, at which all of the guests at the Hotel Engadine are perfect, is contrary to the principals of honest hard work. The guests have enjoyed the pampering of the well coordinated and excellent servants (all of the above shopgirls now in tidy maids' uniforms, joined by the excellent Paul Stanko as the Waiter and later Constable Fellowes). The choreography is letter perfect but sometimes distracting as they emulate some of the dialogue of the 'swells' in the salon of the hotel. 
Diana challenges the wealthy Bretherton to try standing with his back to the wall with pittance to live on and rushes to return to London, her wealth now dissipated.
We return to London and find two figures huddled on a cold park bench along the banks of the Thames.  Bretherton, in an effort to meet Diana's challenge has abandoned his stipend upon which he has lived for years. He is unable to find work (educated at Eton and Oxford with not a whit to show for it).  Rousted by Constable Fellowes, we find that the constable had served in the Welsh Guards under Captain Bretherton and cuts him some slack allowing him to sit a spell on the public bench. As  the Old Woman  (Elyse Mirto) sharing the bench with Bretherton awakens, she advises him to eschew the 'drink!' In fact, all he's wanted to do was to prove to himself and to Diana? that he was capable of surviving on his own. He has failed.
As dawn breaks, a disheveled Diana enters, also on the skids and the love that was just blooming until she revealed her low social status, reawakens and all is well.

Written in 1908, Hamlton's story of a woman seeking to better her life has a 21st Century tone.  The highly stylized and ever so British presentation emphasizes the hoity toity snobbery of the 'upper' classes and puts them in their place.  It's a splendid production, notwithstanding the odd scene change after the short first act. Highly recommended with The Kettles ready in the wings.

The Pots: 
Abigail Marks
John Apicella 
Kristen Ariza  
Shannon Lee Clair
Eve Gordon
Elyse Mirto 
Cindy Nguyen 
Krystel Roche 
Paul Stanko  
John Bobek

Diana of Dobson's
Written by Cicely  Hamilton
Directed by Casey Stangl 
Antaeus Theatre
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
(between N. Brand Blvd. and Artsakh Ave. formerly Maryland Avenue)

Tuesday at 8 p.m.: April 16 ONLY (preview)
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: April 17 ONLY (preview) Thursdays at 8 p.m.: April 11 (preview), April 18 (opening) and May 16 ONLY Fridays at 8 p.m.: April 12 (preview), April 19, 26; May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 Saturdays at 8 p.m.: April 13 (preview), April 20, 27; May 4, 11, 25; June 1 (dark May 18) Sundays at 2 p.m.: April 14 (preview), April 21, 28; May 5, 12, 19, 26; June 2 
Mondays at 8 p.m.: April 29; May 6, 13, 20, 27; June 3 (dark April 22)
Alternating Partner Casts 
Tickets and information
(818) 506-1983 or

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