Review: 'Mama Won't Fly' at Phoenix Stage Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

‘Mama Won’t Fly’ or will she?

 ‘Mama Won’t Fly’ is the title of the James Hope Wooten comedy that is the next presentation by the Phoenix Stage Company at their temporary summer home at the Clockwork Repertory Theater in Oakville.

 This quirky piece is filled with shall we say “unique characters” and lots of laughs delivered with fine comic timing by the large cast. “Large” being a relative term for the PSC and the majority of them playing at least two roles. It was an ambitious choice for this company, especially for the large number of set changes required. Of course, director Ed Bassett pulled it all off with the help of stage manager Lori Poulin and running crew Debbie Cryan and Brian Elser.

Pictured: (from left) Kathy Cook as Savannah, Kristen Jacobson as Haley and Donna Storms as Mama in 'Mama Won't Fly Photo by Sharon A. Wilcox

Pictured: (from left) Kathy Cook as Savannah, Kristen Jacobson as Haley and Donna Storms as Mama in 'Mama Won't Fly Photo by Sharon A. Wilcox

 Savannah (Kathy Cook) promises her brother that she will get their feisty mother Norleen Sprunt from Alabama to California in time for his wedding, but, you guessed it, Mama won’t fly. The four days that they have to drive cross country in Mama’s vintage sedan is the setting for this fun comedy.  

 Complications begin with the arrival of the bride-to-be Haley Quinn, who has the type of luck that few would envy. The bubbly young lady is delighted to meet her future in-laws and looks at the trip as the perfect way to bond with them. The journey begins badly and comedic chaos follows, including the theft of their car and all their clothes, a visit to an underwear museum, an accidental homicide of an elderly Texas relative, a crazy dash across the desert in a big rig and a detour to a Las Vegas wedding chapel with an ordained showgirl/minister. Not necessarily in that order of course.

 Timothy Cleary, with loads of PSC and Clockwork credits to his name, played a host of crazy supporting roles. Roseanne Elliot was a hoot as the docent at the brassiere museum, an ancient aunt named Pawnee and an angry ex-wife in LV. John Fabiani was at his zaniest as four nutty guys. 

 Teresa Moran of Naugatuck, who has some credits with Shakesperience in Waterbury, made her PSC debut as three strange ladies. Jeff Savage is always good in PSC comedies and this one was no exception; he played three supporting roles, with “Spud” performed in drag. 

 Denise Whelan appeared in another PSC production of a play by this team called ‘The Red Velvet Cake Wars.” Here she played both Fanny and Kiki and looked completely different as the two, as did all the character actors thanks to great wigs, makeup and costume changes overseen by the director and Lori Poulin. Heidi Wallace made her stage debut as four characters, and boy, they were characters. Kudos to her on coming out to audition for this fun piece.  

 Donna Storms was the meddling Mama and played the whole thing with a twinkle in her eye and admirable comic timing, even when dressed like a nun. Kristen Jacobson was a beautiful bride to be and worked the bad luck elements of her character so well. Ms. Cook, a PSC veteran and always funny, brought her comic sense to the role of the “successful” business owner who has been unlucky in love. These three actresses helped the comedy achieve what I thought was a superb final scene where everything is wrapped up in a neat little package. 

“Mama” won’t be flying but will be doing plenty of driving at Clockwork through July 31.