BOILING SPRINGS - Allenberry Playhouse's current attraction "Ladies' Night in a Turkish bath" is a record setter. This is the eighth production of the "beloved farce" since it was first presented at the professional playhouse in 1963, with evening and matinee performances Wednesdays through Sundays now through June 15.
Originally a silent film and later adapted into a stage farce called "Good Night Ladies," "Ladies' Night at a Turkish Bath" toured the country in the '40s and '50s and had a brief off-Broadway run in the '60s. An obvious favorite of Allenberry audiences, "Ladies' Night ... " was last presented in 2009.
And almost as noteworthy, Jane Heinze, daughter of Allenberry co-founder and longtime greeter has been in six of these productions including the current attraction. (This was my third viewing, in addition to Allenberry's 1988 and 2009 productions.)
Shown are John Kownacki and Sylvia Kolb in a scene from 'Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath.'
Shown is Jane Heinze in a scene from 'Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath.'
Shown is John Kownacki in a scene from “Ladies’ Night in a Turkish Bath.”
In welcoming the audience, the genial Heinze advises the audience to keep children under 13 at home. This adaptation of the original comedy, penned by Cyrus Wood, may have been deemed risque for the '30s, '40s and '50s, but overall excepting a few seconds of (almost) nudity, the dialogue and visuals are relatively mild by today's standards.
"Ladies Night ... " follows the misadventures of a young college professor who is painfully shy. More comfortable around insects - his nickname is "Spider" - than young women, Professor Matthews simply can't bear to see women bare their flesh. But one of his students, Dodie, is madly in love with the shy "Spider" and bent on winning his heart with a little help from her friends ... and unwanted advice from her mother.
Things go awry when the men all but drag the professor to a burlesque club, while the ladies head off to a Turkish bath directly adjacent to the club. When the police raid the club, the professor and his mentor Mike crawl into the Turkish bath (or what is now called a spa) and desperately hid from the police and the barely clad women.
Drooling at skimpy Turkish towels and swimsuits, the men in hiding don wigs and towels to pass off as customers. Of course, wigs fall off, towels drop and all the lies - and some flesh - are exposed.
Allenberry's mostly young cast members play their roles with zest. Heading the cast are John Kownacki, hilarious as the shy "Spider," and Sylvia Kolb appealing as the wide-eyed Dodie. As in most farces, there is mugging and over-the-top gestures.
But Jeff Sullivan as Mike seemingly strains at times to be funny, although Brian Padgett gets loud laughs playing another gruff friend, Fred.
All of the bathhouse babes, including Jane Heize as Mrs. O'Brien and Diana Wilde as Dodie's imposing mother, are fine and energetic.
Act I and III of the three-act performance are set in the New York apartment where plans are conceived and deceptions exposed.
The funniest scene is Act II's bathhouse with a prolonged chase scene with doors slamming and steam heat raising the temperature for the harried hideouts.
Ryan Gibbs, first-year artistic director, also directs "Ladies Night..." with good hectic pacing. Special mention for the costume designer for the period gowns and '20s swimsuits (called bathing suits in those days) and the set designer for the swanky apartment and the red-hot Cosmetarium setting.
Emitting lots of heat, "...Turkish Bath" is a funny place to visit as the professor's phobia slowly dissolves in the heat of the night.
Even for a farce, "Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath" is sometimes super silly. Still, despite its age, Allenberry Playhouse's romp is fresh-feeling yet featherweight entertainment.
In the wings and in rehearsal are Allenberry's three big summer musicals: "42nd Street" in June, "Oklahoma" in July and "Mame" in August.
For more information, contact Allenberry Playhouse, 1559 Boiling Springs Road, at 717-258-3211 or visit www.allenberry.com.