Arts & Entertainment Editor
Crime thrillers typically fall under the category of serious dramas, with some blood-soaked victim found dead and a mysterious killer on the loose. However, Community Theatre of Greensboro’s newest production, “Women in White,” twists this finely crafted definition by adding morsels of slap-stick humor.
The all-women play takes place in the common room for residency nurses at Cranford General Hospital. A scandal occurs between a patient and one of the nurses, eventually spiraling into a quirky who-done-it. Every nurse must spill their alibi, as a giddy detective takes on her first homicide case.
The play, written by James Reach in 1953, is directed by CTG’s Justin Bulla. It is the fourth main stage production in the community theatre’s 68th season; however, it was not originally listed as such. Before the switch was made, CTG was anticipating showing “Women Behind Bars,” but after some thought, the theatre company decided “Women in White” was a better replacement for their usual audience.
Some agreed with the new choice. “It was great. Loved the mystery – loved it,” said Michele Smith. “I thought it was really good – suspenseful with a little bit of comedy.”
Yet, with some comedic moments also came some questionable moments too.
When the lights turned on, the actors seemed a little misplaced and nervous. The first scene seemed to feel stiff by the way the actors spoke their lines and moved around somewhat cautiously; however, this feeling mostly left as the actors fell into their roles. Other actors felt overdramatized throughout the entire performance.
However, the plot and the script made for an interesting dynamic. Though the cast was entirely comprised of women, which is uncommon, but progressive, the plot also revolved around stereotypical women gossip. The script used outdated words like murderess, dog-tired and swell; however, all of this made sense with when the play was written and when the plot was supposed to take place.
Other parts of the play were questionable, such as why there were so many characters. Throughout the play, there was a subplot between nurse Betsy and nurse Gloria. The two talked about their relationships – Gloria’s boyfriend was in Korea, while Betsy had a crush on one of the male staff members that was never seen. This subplot seemed unnecessary to the rest of the plot and could have been trashed; however, that had nothing to do with the cast’s performance.
Though the “Women in White” cast was full of blandly named characters, it was surprisingly easy to follow. Every nurse had a unique personality, such as Betsy the twinkie eating romantic, Hester the book-loving do-gooder, and Gloria the crass jokester. These nurses and more had distinct roles, but some were more fun to watch than others.
One standout character was Gloria Hart, played by Michele Martino, who always had a snarky crack to add to the conversation. Martino’s high-pitch voice and demeanor were reminiscent of Karen from “Will and Grace.”
Oddly, the most unnecessary character, Gertie the janitor, glued the humor to the mystery. Gertie, played by Guilford County theatre teacher Jenni Pirkey, was the only character to use physical slap-stick humor, which garnered heavy laughter from the audience.
Pirkey would shamelessly pretend to be cleaning the common room by bending over and whipping the floors with her hands or laying on a couch and haphazardly pushing a mop around the floor. Besides her lack of work ethic, she sniffed and snorted, ate cookies on the job, spit on the head nurse and randomly left her plastic gloves tucked into her glasses and sweater.
For many of the actors, it was their first time back on the CTG stage after years on hiatus.
“I’ve been with CTG for years actually, but I haven’t done a play in about 15 years,” said Chelsi Majette who played Hester. “It was very exciting. It was a really great cast. I had a lot of fun.”
The cast had a fair share of actors from a diverse age group, such as a high school student, a few in college and others with families. This seemed to add camaraderie to their stage presence.
“All the women were so supportive,” said Cameron Parker who played Celia Gray. “Everybody was helping each other with their lines at all times.” This was crucial because Parker added that the cast had less than a month of rehearsal time due to the snow.
“Women in White,” only just began, but it has a shorter running-time in comparison to CTG’s musical productions. The show will run from Jan. 24-27, starting at 7:30 p.m. and end on Jan. 28 with a matinee at 2 p.m. To purchase a ticket and find out just who-done-it, go to CTG’s website at https://ctgso.org/ctg_shows/women-in-white/.