Peanute Galleria, Broad Shoulders Theatre. Too many young playwrights and performers see farce as a license for mayhem, when farce done well demands a discipline more severe than any required for Shakespeare or Chekhov: a story driven almost exclusively by its plot must establish its universe immediately and irrevocably. Otherwise, information crucial to the next screwball complication might be overlooked by an audience struggling to orient itself.
Fortunately, playwright-director Steve Longmuir recognizes this principle: his Peanute (pronounced pay-ah-noo-tay) Galleria is a refreshingly well-crafted addition to the genre. Borrowing liberally from Lend Me a Tenor (with a sly nod to Phantom), this romp through the fine-arts world tangles two lookalike male artists, three lusty female fans, assorted eccentrics, five doors, and a screen, and still manages to tie off every thread in a happy ending with a lesson.
The athletic cast, led by Neal Grofman and Lynn Wirth as Monsieur and Madame Peanute (whose French accents never falter, no matter how fast and furious their delivery), prance nimbly through their paces. And there's never a trace of shtick not firmly grounded in character (though Ken Michaels, playing an annoying performance artist, is so far over-the-top he becomes annoying in his own right). Presently ensconced in spartan quarters, Peanute Galleria has enough of the right stuff to be moved into Candlelight's Forum tomorrow.
--Mary Shen Barnidge