There’s an opening for a princess at the OCP
Opening Night last week for the Orange Community Players production of “Once Upon a Mattress” was an entertaining way to spend the evening.
For those of you who do not recognize the title; “Mattress,” is a comedic, musical take on the “Princess and the Pea” fairy tale of a mother who insists on finding a “real” princess for her son to marry.
At first, new comer to the OCP stage, Justin O’Mara playing Prince Dauntless appeared to be over acting his part. The way he was stomping across the stage pouting, it seemed more like a bratty kid that wasn’t getting his way. But that didn’t last long. O’Mara then settled into his part and it felt more as it should, a frustrated young man trying to break away from his mother’s tight control to start his own life. What first appeared as “brattiness” quickly turned into exasperation as his mother, Queen Aggravain, played by Codie Vásquez, failed yet another princess and deemed her unworthy of marrying her son.
The queen’s actions not only affected her son, but the entire kingdom, for no one was allowed to marry until after Dauntless was wed.
This became a particular problem for one couple when Lady Larken, played by Elissa Myers, reveals to her love, Sir Harry, played by Travis Coombs that she is “with child.” In a sense of urgency, Harry, with the help of a pleading prince, convinces the queen to let him go on a quest for a suitable bride for Dauntless.
While Harry searches for a princess that fit the bill, Dauntless’s father, the mute King Sextimuss, amused himself by chasing the pretty young hand maidens around the castle. It was part of the play the troop of actors were unsure would work. They didn’t have anything to worry about. It was one of the funniest parts of the play.
The king was played brilliantly by Alaniz Vásquez. He said some of the pantomimes took a little while to figure out, but most of it was achieved the first week of practice. Without saying a word, the king communicates so well, that he not only joins in on a song with the minstrel, played by Andrew Gibson, and jester, played by Eastwood Almazan, but also explains the “birds and bees” to his son, Dauntless.
John Hall, the director of the play did an excellent job of casting the parts.
Vásquez’s queen, was loud, demanding and overbearing; exactly what the role called for.
“I’m not sure I like playing the bad guy,” said Vásquez. She is used to light-hearted comedy roles.
Her husband on the other hand, was really getting a kick out of playing a “good guy” for a change. “This is the first time I haven’t killed somebody on stage,” he said. “Although, I am the only one carrying a weapon,” said the king as he waved his plastic sword while being interviewed after the play.
Hall could not have made a better choice than Dee Dee Howell for Princess Winnifred. She entered the castle, wet, pulling aquatic vegetation from her hair after swimming the moat. “I hear you have an opening for a princess,” she announced. I could swear she had channeled Carol Burnett who originated the role off-Broadway in 1959.
Burnett later reprised the role in a made for television version of the play. Dody Goodman and Imogene Coca also have starred in the roles.
The prince was excited and interested, while the queen was horrified because she “swam the moat.”
Dauntless and Winnifred, “Fred” for short, were the perfect couple, well matched.
The queen was determined for this “contestant” to fail the test and schemed with the wizard, played by Randy Wuske, to devise an exam that was unpassable. A single pea, under twenty fluffy mattresses. Only a “true” princess’ sleep would be disturbed by a single pea.
Harry, the minstrel, and the jester were determined to discover the queen’s plan, to thwart Aggravain’s plot.
Needless to say, the prince got the princess, the guy got the girl, the king found his voice, and the queen “got hers.”
I was enjoying it so much, I almost forgot to take pictures.
You can still catch a performance of “Once Upon a Mattress” this week. The players will take the stage Oct. 21-23 , at 708 W. Division in Orange. All shows start at 7:37 p.m.
Reservations are required and can be made by calling (409) 882-9137.