Three months ago, Josh Wielenga stole the show as a mischievous angel-in-training in Richmond Hill's "Down to Earth."
The tables are turned this time, and now Wielenga is the straight man for four comedic aces in "Bingo," a robust farce playing at Richmond Hill in Geneseo, Ill.
Wielenga's David Pearce is an associate English professor seeking tenure from his department chair (Greg Bouljon). But the latter's wife (Jackie Skiles), bored with her Milton-obsessed husband, tries to make him jealous by claiming to see David behind his back. There's also the leggy co-ed (Rebecca McCorkle) trying to make time with him as well as an unannounced, pushy insurance salesman (Bryan Woods) trying to sell him on policies that pay out while he's still alive.
Skiles is a Richmond Hill vet who's made the best out of many thankless roles through the years, but particularly shines here.
While her character, English prof Margaret, is drunk on Scotch and wearing just a dark slip, she unceasingly and hilariously mocks McCorkle's Linda ("a cheap little C-plusser!") behind her back, both verbally and silently, all the time woozily trying to seduce David. Male actors playing sloppy, silly drunk is a theater staple, and it was refreshing to see Skiles tackle it with aplomb.
Bouljon, another longtime character actor who often doesn't get the credit he deserves, is on target as the blustering George, his confidence deteriorating by the second.
One of the brightest spots of Richmond Hill's "Complete Works of William Shakespare (Abridged)" in April, the vivacious McCorkle shows sharp comedic timing here as well, beginning with a tone-deaf sonnet that starts the comedy.
Woods, another reliable area theater commodity, gleefully plays the insurance salesman, bemoaning his wife's obsession with bingo — 12 cards a round, every round of the night, every night of the week.
Of course it's the title of the show, but Allan Stratton's script could have done without the occasional mentions of bingo — there aren't even enough to qualify it as a subplot. And although David has the morals to deflect the drunken woman who wants to make time with him, the script doesn't mind that he's oh-so-close to a rendezvous with a student.
In her second time out as a director, Dana Skiles — Jackie's daughter, with a fair amount of acting credits herself — keeps a steady pace and farce-like timing for entrances and exits in rapid order, although one shoe obviously in the way is discovered at one point, and no one really says anything about David wearing Margaret's dress over his clothes for about 10 minutes.
Stratton's farce, written in the mid-'70s and updated in the mid-'80s, is nicely updated and succeeds by giving intelligence to all of its characters, something else that's missing in more than a few comedic scripts.