“Mister Roberts” pulled into port at Los Alamos Little Theatre aboard the aptly named U.S.S. Reluctant Friday night. The beloved Hollywood movie, starring Henry Fonda and Jack Lemmon, was first a novel and then a play.
The LALT production is a revival of the 1948 theater version, which took Broadway by storm. Given the level of laughter in the theater Friday, I think “Mister. Roberts” still retains its magic for many theater-goers. For me, it’s hard to get past the sexism and class stereotyping in the play. I found it badly in need of adaptation. Post Tailhook, it’s a little harder to grin along as Ensign Pulver (Don Monteith) wisecracks his way through another seduction attempt with yet another army nurse.
The plot is briefly this: Lt. Roberts (Jeffrey Favorite) is second in command aboard a cargo ship in the Pacific during WW II. He longs to get into the fight on a combat vessel and out from under the thumb of his tyrannical, lazy and stupid Captain (Larry Gibbons). His fellow officers, medical man, Doc (Richard Parker), and the sophomoric and extremely lazy Ensign Pulver (Don Monteith) also are his closest friends.
The plot revolves around Robert’s attempts to get reassigned and foil the Captain, who despite hating Roberts, knows it is only the Lieutenant who keeps the crew in line and the ship winning awards. The Captain, who has no redeeming qualities, refuses to allow the crew shore leave unless Roberts gives up on his transfer plans.
Luckily, Favorite, Parker, Monteith and Gibbons are up to the task of making us care about the interplay between these characters.
Favorite manages to make Roberts believable if a bit too good to be true. It’s difficult to avoid being upstaged by Monteith, as Pulver gets the most laughs, but Favorite keeps our eyes on Roberts, where they belong.
Monteith manages to make us care about Pulver’s maturation into an officer Roberts could be proud of and gets plenty of laughs along the way. Parker is good as the wise, if cynical Doc. Gibbons brings his great comic timing to bear on the role of the Captain.
Suzy Koehn manages to mitigate some of the play’s sexism as the sassy Lt. Ann Girard. Here’s a shout out to Patrick Webb in a walk-on role, where he manages not to be upstaged by a live goat.
The set design is marvelous. Designers Fran Stovall and Larry Cox have us believing we are aboard the Reluctant, and the nifty design allows for smooth transitions into the captain’s office and Mr. Roberts’ quarters.
The play is long – more than two hours – and could benefit from some cuts. The hijinks of the sailors are interchangeable and could be reduced, and the USO show seems unnecessary. The USO number is also badly in need of accompaniment. Courtney Duecy as a fine voice, but expecting her to sing a Capella seems a poor choice.
The pace and timing of the show are a bit off — something that may be corrected as the play continues its run. The sailor corps is especially in need of some direction.
With a little help from a goat and some potted palms, “Mister Roberts” brought in plenty of laughs, a lot of nostalgia and a few tears Friday night.
“Mister Roberts” will be performed at 7:30 Fridays and Saturdays, March 14-28 at the Los Alamos Little Theatre. There also will be two Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. March 15 and March 22. Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for seniors/students. Matinee prices are $12 for veterans.
The Los Alamos Performing Arts Center is at 1670 Nectar St. Tickets are available at CB FOX, online at Brown Paper Tickets www.lalt.org, or at the door prior to performances.
YN2 Dolan (Darryl Garcia) stands guard. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Captain (Larry Gibbons), left, yells at Mr. Roberts (Jeffrey Favorite). Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
The crew receives bad news. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
The cast takes a bow. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com