A caustic look at the parallel declines of the British Empire and the British Music Hall, John Osborne’s The Entertainer examines the changing culture and mores of a failing England and declining community, revealing the shabby underbelly of a struggling nation through fine acting and thoughtful direction.
Old-fashioned comic Price presides as headliner over the fading glories of a local music hall as well as a fracturing family. Can he discover a generous angel to rescue his dying career as well as the finances and dissolving of his family?
Director Francois Kalli wisely focuses on the hollow premise of Price’s selfish and misguided life. The show makes real the desperate straits of the battling family, bound together as much by tradition and need as love. The production’s design successfully captures the seedy, dilapidated straits of the Price family and music hall. Osborne’s story seems a little dated in its use of racist, sexist slang, however.
Collins steals the show as the flawed, manic Price, desperately throwing out stale jokes, patter, and a little soft shoe as he fights to hang on to his dignity. He demonstrates excellent timing and patter skills. While a little too arch, Kay Bernard gives compassion to his incredibly unhappy wife Phoebe, who drowns her sorrows in gin and movies. Naomi Glick brings understated charm to the easygoing, normal Jean, who’s escaped to the vitality of London.
The Entertainer blends strong acting and absorbing subject matter into an emotionally involving story.
The Entertainer plays Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through May 10 at the NoHo London Music Hall, 10620 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets cost $20, $18 for students and seniors. To buy tickets, visit www.plays411.com.