NOLA Voice Theatre continues to provide laughs and frights at the gorgeous-looking Valiant Theatre and Lounge in Arabi.
Striving to preserve voice theater as a style and show support to new or struggling theaters in New Orleans, NOLA Voice Theatre continued its summer series at the Valiant Theatre and Lounge on 6621 St. Claude Ave. in Arabi. Helmed by famed local actor Vatican Lokey, NOLA Voice Theatre presented a two-act show on July 17, the first act being NOLA Voice Theatre’s original production of Untold New Orleans and the second act being a radio play version of the classic 1939 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner.
Directed by Lokey and written by Leah Richards and Prof. Carl Nivale, Untold New Orleans, which draws from different New Orleans folklore and ghost stories, stars famed local actor Edward R. Cox as Monsieur Darque. Darqe serves as the host and presenter of two stories that were performed like radio plays for this show: “Mysteries of Mardi Gras” and “The Ghost of Mona Lisa.” The first story, “Mysteries of Mardi Gras,” tells of different murders throughout New Orleans’s history that either took place during Mardi Gras or involved old Mardi Gras families. The second story, “The Ghost of Mona Lisa,” is a tragic love tale about Mona Dupree (played by Soline McLain), who comes from a rich family, and Ellis (played by Stephen Denning), who was born in a brothel and lived in an orphanage. They meet after Ellis lost a duel with a man named Tony (played by Donald Lewis) and is shot. She nurses him back to health and they fall in love with each other. Alas, however, their love does not last long and ends in tragedy. Both stories featured talented actors like B. D. Boudreaux, Cooper Bucha, Jessica Daigle, Aeryn Dixon, Darcy Preston, and Karen Shields.
I found myself enjoying “The Ghost of Mona Lisa” more than “Mysteries of Mardi Gras,” but both are good entries to the Untold New Orleans series. “Mysteries of Mardi Gras” has a good setup with a series of murders occurring around Mardi Gras, but the story doesn’t really focus on characters directly involved or affected by the murders. We see and hear from police officers and side characters who really only have a passing knowledge of the murders, but not from the characters who were murdered or the people who were close to them. I know the point of a mystery is to keep your audience in the dark and have them guessing, but I would have liked more insight into the people involved in the Mardi Gras murders. “The Ghost of Mona Lisa” was good because we got to know Mona and Ellis and see their backstories, from their births to their downfall, thus leaving more of an impact. All of the actors did a good job selling the drama of what was transpiring in both stories, as well as the bits of comedy thrown in to lighten the mood from time to time. Overall, this was another enjoyable installment to Untold New Orleans and I can’t wait to hear the next batch of gothic tales from Monsieur Darque.
Act Two of Show Two presented a production of the 1939 comedy play The Man Who Came to Dinner, which was also adapted into a movie in 1942 and starred Betty Davis. Written by George Kaufman and Moss Hart and adapted for radio by Victor Allan Tallant, The Man Who Came to Dinner tells the tale of Sheridan Whiteside (played by Lokey) who injures himself by slipping on some ice and ends up becoming a houseguest for Mr. and Mrs. Stanley (played by Scott Crane and Darcy Preston, respectively). Whiteside proceeds to be a constant source of annoyance to the Stanleys, as well as to his assistant Maggie Cutler (played by McLain). Hilarity ensues as Whiteside continues to make unreasonable demands and be a burden to anyone and everyone who comes in contact with him.
This is my first exposure to any format of The Man Who Came to Dinner, and I gotta say I enjoyed it. Lokey wonderfully plays a selfish man who is completely full of himself and loves nothing more than to make the people around him miserable for his own enjoyment. The rest of the actors, all of whom were in Act One with the addition of Stephen James and Michael Martin, all did a good job with their roles and served as enjoyable foils to Lokey’s Whiteside. There were a couple of times where lines were flubbed, thus ruining the pacing of one or two jokes, but those instances were minimal and didn’t take away from the overall production too much. This was a really funny show and NOLA Voice Theatre did a great job of adapting this story into a radio play format.
NOLA Voice Theatre has one more show in their summer series at the Valiant Theatre and Lounge. The final show will feature another installment of the original series Untold New Orleans, as well as a production of the 1940 romantic comedy The Shop Around the Corner. The show has a tentative date of August 19, but Lokey informed me that the date may be pushed back a week or so to make sure all of the actors can attend that performance. Make sure to visit Valiant Theatre’s website, valianttheatre.com, to get a more accurate date when it gets closer to performance day.