Clarence Day Jr.'s father was, in a word, difficult. Demanding yet comical and undoubtedly loved by his family, Clarence Day Sr. was the primary subject of his son's 1935 memoir, which was, four years later, adapted into a play by Howard Lindsey and Russel Crouse.
That play, Life with Father, presented by Theatre Tulsa, enjoys its second run at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St., this weekend.
Directed by Billie Sue Thompson, Life with Father opens as the Day family is preparing for breakfast one morning. Vinnie Day (Melissa Harris) is attempting to both reassure and warn the new maid (Abigail Whitson-Clopp) about the man of the house.
Vinnie and Clarence "Clare" Day (Ed Dill) have four boys: Clarence Jr. (Hunter Cates), John (Jackson Cox), Whitney (Andrew Pearson) and Harlan (Brooke Taylor Myers).
Each of them, as well as the family's hired help, nervously awaits Clare's appearance. The only one who doesn't seem to be frightened by the hotheaded Wall Street broker is his wife.
Upon appearance, Clare isn't much to fear. He has fiery red hair, as do each of the Days, and sports a handlebar mustache. It isn't until his first outburst, prompted by the new maid's missteps, that one begins to understand why those around him are walking on eggshells.
But, one realizes, Father isn't as scary as he -- or the maid -- thinks he is. His sons mind their manners around him, likely because they don't want the inconvenience of dealing with his outbursts, and not because they're terrified of him. Because with each one, a response he has to some member of his family not acting in accordance with his wished to conduct his home like a business, Clare grows more comical.
Vinnie dismisses her husband's gruff demeanor and easily manipulates him to achieve what she wants. What she wants is money -- $1 here, $6 there, which her husband begrudgingly hands over, despite his wife's inability to keep up with his meticulous bookkeeping -- a week-long visit from her cousin, Cora (Shawna Lewis), who brings along a friend, Mary (Mattie Lippe); and, after he lets slip he wasn't baptized as a baby, a baptism for her husband.
She uses her powers of persuasion, plus a little bad math and lovable dim-wittedness, to trick him out of the former two, but the latter seems nearly impossible.
Thompson directs an able cast of actors who deftly achieve the laughs the playwrights are after. Dill is likeable as Father, perhaps more likeable than Day Jr. intended to portray his dad. It's a bit hard to take the character seriously, even when he is behaving with utmost seriousness.
Harris is delightful Vinnie, who's not as daft as she appears to be. Her comedic timing is nearly perfect.
Daddy knows best. The play itself is light, easy and fun. There are no twisting
plots, nothing that will leave audience members scratching their heads as they leave
the theater. It’s a carefree escape from the real world.
Many of the other actors are Thompson's acting students, and it's clear she is a fine teacher.
Rich Goss' set design is an admirable replica of an 1880s upper-middle class home.
The play itself is light, easy and fun. There are no twisting plots, nothing that will leave audience members scratching their heads as they leave the theater. It's a carefree escape from the real world.
When Life with Father premiered on Broadway in 1939, it became the longest running straight play to appear there, lasting seven years and 3,224 performances, a title it still holds today.
Theatre Tulsa's version of the production plays Thursday, March 24 through Saturday, March 26 at 7:30pm in the Tulsa PAC's Liddy Doenges Theatre. Tickets are $15 and available, along with other information, tulsapac.com.
Also this weekend, Tulsa Children's Museum closes its Family Music Series with a concert by Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience. Zydeco is Louisiana folk music that infuses blues and jazz with Creole culture.
Simien's version, Creole for Kidz, introduces children and families to the sound. Simien is recognized as an accomplished musician and educator and leads a six-piece band in the Saturday, March 26 concerts at 1pm and 3pm in the Tulsa PAC's John H. Williams Theatre. Tickets are $10 (lap-sitters are free) and are available at tulsapac.com
On Tuesday, March 29, Choregus Productions presents opera singers Dame Kiri te Kanawa and Frederica von Stade in the Tulsa PAC's Chapman Music Hall.
The singers are individually accomplished and close friends, and they shared the stage during Le Nozze di Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera.
Te Kanawa gained legendary status after her debut as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House in 1971. She has since become one of the world's most famous sopranos, singing with Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony and the Boston Symphony.
Described by the The New York Times as "one of America's finest artists and singers," von is a mezzo-soprano who has been performing for 30 years.
The pair, along with composer Jake Heggie, will present a program of songs, arias and duets ranging from Mozart, Puccini and Poulenc to Gershwin and Hammerstein. The concert begins at 7:30pm, and tickets are $30-$130.
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