Cactus Flower (2014)

Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower

Stage play by:  Abe Burrows
Play by:             Pierre Baillet

Directed by:  Don Miller

The storyline involves Julian Winston, a dentist who is involved in a relationship with a younger woman (Tony Simmons).  In order to keep her at arm’s length, he tells her he is married with three children.  When she concludes that their future together is going nowhere, she unsuccessfully attempts suicide.

After deciding he really is in love with Toni, Julian tells her that his wife wants a divorce anyway, so he will divorce and marry Toni.  Toni’s sense of being honest and above-board drives her to demand to meet Julian’s wife.

Julian convinces his long-time office assistant, Miss Dickinson, to pose as his wife.  When the two women meet, further complications develop, including the need to come up with a lover for Julian’s “wife”, a young neighbor of Toni’s, various patients of Julian’s, etc.  One lie leads to another and very funny complications develop.  Miss Dickinson also “blooms” as she learns there is more to life than taking care of Dr. Winston.

Review by Clyde Morrison

Cactus Flower is a very witty play with humorous comments throughout. It is about a dentist who successfully avoids going to the altar with his various amours by telling them he is married with three children. This works fine until he goes with an unusual girl who wants to meet his wife and children and then she feels sorry for them

I went to Cactus Flower expecting a frilly play like the movie with Goldie Hawn and Walter Matthau. Well, there were frills. Cheryl Parker played the part that Goldie Hawn had in the movie, and she did a superb job with her hot pink bedroom, her short shorts with unusual stockings, and her kinky personality. But, Cheryl also had her serious side with her concern for the other women that were being snubbed as their boyfriends and husbands were chasing women.

While Cheryl had shown her dramatic abilities several times in plays like Dixie Swim Club, Bill Spain, who played Igor Sullivan, was new to our stage. What an addition! Bill has a very strong speaking voice, and it seemed as if he had been on stage often before instead of it being his first time. His acting was natural, and he did not seem strange to the stage even when wearing just a towel

The comedic roles were handled by Phyllis Schurz as the wealthy Mrs. Durant, who thought that her hair appointment was more important than her dentist appointment;, Lee Henry, who was an aging lecherous romantic looking to score with any skirt: and Carlos Navarette, who as a Latin lover did not see anything wrong with leaving his wife alone at home while dating another woman. These three along with Sunnie Saperstein and Stan Debber filled out a fine cast.

However, what really surprised and pleased me was the acting skill and dramatic abilities of the two main characters played by Bill Gibney as the dentist, Dr. Julian Winston, and his old maid nurse, Stephanie Dickinson, played by Melanie Westmark. Melanie and Bill gave two of the best performances I have seen on the Pinewood stage or for that matter on any stage. They really got into it in their scenes together. Facial and body expressions along with their strong verbal skills just glued my attention to the stage like few other performances have. To me, this was a breakout for both actors. They had both been in several plays here but they have usually played lighter roles. Their roles in this production were strong. They both had to go from the kind and gentle to the strong and forceful. Each had a variety of moods to go through, and each did not leave anything on the table. Melanie’s scene with Cheryl Parker in the record shop was a classic which produced strong emotions as she was trying to help her boss out with his lies but also could not hurt the feelings of his mistress. Then her final scene with Bill Gibney reminded me of the clash between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the movie Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff? There was a real buildup of tension in that scene and then at last came the final resolution as they realized they were meant for each other.

Bill Gibney throughout the play had to change from the fun-loving and inconsiderate man to the man who did not want to hurt other’s feelings, Again, his last scene with Melanie showcased his fine acting ability.

If there was a fault with this play, it was the length and the number of scene changes. Three hours and fifteen minutes and fourteen scene changes keeps you sitting for a long time. The director, Don Miller, recognized this and suggested that we enjoy the ballet of the stage crew as they moved things around in the nearly dark stage. While this must have bothered some, others followed the director’s suggestion before the play started that we enjoy the ballet of the stage crew and their changes. In fact, there was often applause for the crew and at the end of some of the performances the crew got a standing ovation. There were at least ten on the crew that I counted and probably more.

Don Miller took on a horrendous task for his directing of the Pinewood Players, but I, for one, was happy I got a chance to see such a well-done job. Kudos Mr. Miller!

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