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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 5.20.10

 

Old School Cool

Eugene’s most prolific octogenarian strikes again with The Foursome

by Anna Grace

The Foursome . photo Courtesy of Actors Cabaret of Eugene

Eugene author Charles Nathan is 89 years old. His work is unapologetically nostalgic, harken-ing back to a bygone era where style and sentiment trump substance, and marriage is always a happy ending.

With music set firmly before the British Invasion and a trippingly light story line (two women are trying to get their boyfriends to marry them, and the two men are trying to get out of it), The Foursome is reminiscent of a Fred Astaire film. While I completely appreciate Nathan’s mission — to bring back musicals that focus on music and romance — it was still hard for this Gen X girl to wrap her brain around two hours of husband chasing. 

The actors have certainly bought in, bringing soulful intention to their actions. Erica Jean and Madelyn Schwartz are cleverly coy as Doris and Evelyn, while Mark Van Beever (Marty) and Trevor Eichhorn (George) do a nice job of being not quite as smart as their girls. The 1940s-inspired costumes are charming, leaving me with the impression that men in general should spend more time wearing sweater vests. There is some very cute choreography, particularly when the boys at the poker game break into “South of the Blues.” I would like to call out the set designer for failing to keep up with the rest of the production, but one was not listed, which may be part of the problem. Gray benches, which simply do not belong under the butts of husband-hunting vixens, stand in for what should be pink poufs before dressing tables. The stage is bare and colorless, more appropriate for a dark drama than a sweet musical.

Significantly smoother than last year’s Where the Heck’s the Plot, The Foursome shows Nathan pushing himself to perfect the 1940s-era stage musical. Ultimately I believe that The Foursome would make a better film than stage production. Is America ready for the return of the old school musical comedy film? I think that’s your next challenge, Mr. Nathan. - 

The Foursome runs through May 22 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene. Tix at actorscabaret.org or (541) 683-4368.