THEATER REVIEW: 'Swisters'


During the first 15 minutes or so of Las Vegas Little Theatre’s “Swisters,” I was fooled into thinking I was watching a disaster of a wannabe comedy. Everyone overacted. The dialogue was insipid. And then, slowly, surprisingly, the tide began to turn. This story of two infant girls given by the hospital to the wrong mothers winds up being a full-of-guffaws bit of pleasant nonsense.

Frankie (Tiffany Raelynn) is tired of her downtrodden life, and when she discovers her counterpart, Jill (Mary Foresta), is living high on the hog, she tries to switch lives. She succeeds. But by the time she deals with Jill’s family and friends and neurotic ticks, she learns that her life with the unemployed man she loves (Alex Pink) is not so bad after all.

Director Courtney Sheets hit on an ingenious idea when she decided to cast two very different types as the look-alike women. When Frankie poses as Jill, no one notices there’s anything different -- never mind that the two have opposite builds, different hair, and that Frankie is black while Jill is white. This Mondo Bizzaro world gives the whole situation a welcomed surreal quality, as if Frankie is able to fool Jill’s clan through sheer “Twilight Zone” determination. I hope author Stanley Toledo will consider incorporating this twist into his script.

Toledo’s tale won the Little Theatre’s new play competition, and it’s obvious the talented writer knows how to structure and make sense of a loony story. He needs a steadier hand during the opening moments. He’s too eager to make you laugh too soon. And if he’d dump the dozen or so limp jokes, he’d get more yuks. But just when you think a comic bit isn’t going to pay off, Toledo throws a curve ball. He’s full of surprises.

Sheets too often doesn’t trust Toledo’s characters to be amusing without her exaggerating the basic situation. But most of the actors relax by the end of the first act. Shane Cullum is an intriguing “man of Goth” whose no-nonsense manner, and fetish-shop mannequin appearance, convince you there’s something to celebrate in the dark side of life. John Ivanoff is likably creepy as a neighbor who’s full of schemes. And Raelynn seems so exasperated by Jill’s family that you can feel her desperation to run away and win her old life back.
 
The script isn’t quite on target yet, but I had a ball enjoying the possibilities.

What: “Swisters”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre Black Box, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets: $14-$15 (362-7996)
Grade: B