“Sin Street Social Club” is scheduled for 11 more performances, mingling with two other Black Box plays: Diary of Anne Frank” and “The Moors.” Arvada Center is at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada. Tickets: arvadacenter.org, 720-898-7200.
Two weathered facades with shutters are set side by side at the back of a busy New Orleans square — one is the (Ba)sin Street Social Club and the other, we soon learn, houses the notorious Angie B.
A (reluctant) young novice, Helen (Jessica Robblee), wanders onto the scene, saying she is to take her vows soon — and looking sad and uncertain about it.
The club had been built by her daddy, and her sister, Florie Mae (Emily Van Fleet) is a singer there, while protective manager/brother Pete (Zachary Andrews) lets us know that he needs for the sisters to be married or otherwise securely set in place, for the club to remain in family hands … he is overly bossy and protective as he tries to herd a pair of feisty young women. (Perhaps some modulation in his presentation might make him more effective?? Lots of yelling.) A deadline looms.
Angie B. appears with her retinue and her profession is soon obvious … The greatly talented Emma Messenger steals many of her scenes as the club’s neighbor — and her companion, Lu, is played by a frisky Regina Fernandez.
Florie Mae is all excited over a guy named Belville (Lance Rasmussen) she recently met on the street — sure he’s the one she’ll soon marry, while her brother thinks perhaps it should be his friend, local politician Tony Trudeau (a sleazy character played by Larry Cahn). Bellville is an awkward string bean of a guy — geeky is the word I want here — played with skill by Lance Rasmussen. This cast of real pros avoids over-playing the comedy stuff, so it remains comedic throughout — much harder to do than it probably appears.
As mentioned above, the club had been built by their daddy, with some restrictions on the heirs: The women must be married — or settled (therefore the nunnery) — for the club to remain in family hands. And a deadline looms.
This new play by Colorado playwright Jessica Austgen, directed by Lynne Collins, “Sin Street Social Club,” was commissioned by the Arvada Center. It proceeds with wonderful ongoing backup music by our local favorite, Queen City Jazz Band, featuring Hank Troy’s deft fingers bouncing across the piano keyboard. It’s almost like having a QCJB concert as well as a play for an evening’s entertainment.
The play is based on “The Rover” by English Restoration writer Aphra Behn, said to be the first woman to earn a living as a writer. All three of the Black Box Repertory plays are by women this year.
In this performance, understudy Zayaz Da Camara played the part of unsophisticated doofus Blunt, and we also soon meet swaggering man-about-town Wilmore (Geoffrey Kent), who has a twinkle in his eyes, his own agenda — and is like catnip for Helen, who has by now cast aside her religious avocation and is looking for a man to marry.
Action soon moves into traditional farce mode — silliness and rapid motion that looks disorganized, but takes very careful planning to avoid accidents, as character rush in and out, around each other, all the while talking to each other at a fast clip. Studied, cleverly managed physical comedy abounds under Lynne Collins’ deft direction.
Dialect coach Gabriella Cavallero’s steady touch is behind the dialogue as Southern accents are ever-present, but not overdone—the sort of professionalism we have come to expect at Arvada Center. Jason Ducat’s sound design with the ongoing Dixieland jazz background is another illustration of balance in this really delightful production.
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