SANDY — Prior to this Friday evening at Hale Center Theatre, I had never heard of One for the Pot, but found myself delighted to become acquainted with this silly play. Written by Ray Cooney and Tony Hilton, One For The Pot is a British work originating over 60 years ago. I welcomed the obscurity of this show, as the farcical humor felt fresh and new. Around every corner was a comedic madcap treat. As director Ryan L. Simmons states in his director’s notes, “One For The Pot doesn’t pretend to be art, but rather, revels in being entertainment.” To this sentiment, Simmons absolutely delivers. Although, I must disagree with him in one regard: a comedy this well done IS art.
The plot for One For The Pot is a bit chaotic. Socialite Jonathan Hardcastle is to bestow 10,000 pounds to the last living Hickory Wood. Simpleton Billy Hickory Wood appears to stake his claim on the pot, but the claims do not end there. With scheming lawyers and butlers, subplots of love stories, and a grand 1950s style ball all in the mix, a true comedy of errors unfolds as one Hickory Wood turns to two, and confusion and flawless hilarity ensue.
Under Simmons’s direction, One For the Pot was impeccably executed, thoughtfully detailed, and an outrageously good time. (My only complaint is a few late microphones is all that needs polishing.( Beginning with the live three-man band opening the show to the shattering of the fourth wall in scenes with audience engagement, each piece of this show was a funny and punny surprise. The night thrilled me, with the 1950s dancing, a beautifully sung duet, and the sprinkled in use of the live band. The comedic timing was perfection, the pacing was effective, the cast was full of comedic chemistry and a contagious energy. The comedy was varied with everything from slapstick and puns, to adding current time jokes throughout.
The set design by Jenn Taylor was bright and welcoming to match the show’s tone, and I especially enjoyed the authentic period costumes created by Joy Zhu. The scene changes were very fluid, with a rotating set transporting the audience from the living room to the ball room.
The cast for One for the Pot was charmingly even. Often in this type of comedy there is a show-stopping comedic performance that may overshadow other aspects of the show, but each actor brought something to the table. A true ensemble effort, there wasn’t a performance that fell short. The cohesive pandemonium was often led by the ringmaster character Charlie Barnet, played by Jake Ben Suazo. Barnet is an attorney trying to get a hand on his piece of the pot and hide the possibility of other Hickory Woods staking their claims. Suazo was urgent, funny, and successfully led a great portion of the audience engagement. As Winnie, the simpleton Billy Hickorywood’s wife, Jasmine Fullmer was hysterical. In one scene when the Hickory Wood who Winnie thinks is her husband dismisses her, Fullmer as Winnie has a full-on nervous break and fit that left me in stitches. Fullmer’s presence was commanding and the affronted air she performed with was hilarious.
Last, but certainly not least, in cast mentions is Bryan Dayley as all the Hickory Woods. Yes, Dayley plays multiple characters, and they are distinguished almost entirely by dialect. A tall order, but Dayley does so excellently delivering an Irish brogue, a gentlemen’s diction, and idiot’s drawl. Additionally, identically looking characters were successfully conveyed by dialect and mannerisms without the use of facial expression, as Dayley was masked for the entire performance. (To clarify, I am referring to a surgical mask not a theatrical mask.) Whether this was actor’s choice or part of CDC protocol, I respect the decision to mask and was still exceedingly pleased with Dayley’s performance. I can’t imagine the amount of running around set that Dayley was tasked with as one of his characters was constantly disappearing in one area and reappearing in another. To do so is a feat, and especially so in a mask. Dayley brought an abundance of laughs, energy, and creativity to the portrayal of the characters he played. His performance was the cherry on top of an amazingly acted show. While Dayley ranged from endearing to villain, I most enjoyed his scenes as Billy the Simpleton, where lawyer Barnet is trying to corral Billy into deceiving and the amusement that comes along with this coaching and attempted deceit.
While I could go on and on about the show, I don’t want to spoil anything for upcoming audiences as a great deal of the success and appeal of One for the Pot was the unknown and unexpected. Commendations to Hale for the choice of show. This is one of the best comedies I’ve seen and most fun I’ve had in a very long time. Take your friends, kids, and family. One for the Pot is a fantastic performance and a must-see for all audiences.