Laughter takes the stage with ‘Leading Ladies’

By Tahnee Hopman

Chaos reigns in the posh neighbourhood at Ward Place, Colombo 7. Two unusually large, somewhat dubious looking females- supposedly the long lost nieces of Florence Wewalpanawa- have finally been reunited with their aunt and cousin; and will inherit a large fortune. But something seems amiss in this happy reunion, and Reverend Galapatha- sorry, Elepatha- makes it his business, nay, his civic duty to get to the bottom of things.

The best laid plans run amok, as ‘Leading Ladies’ Maxine and Stephanie- down on their luck actors Leo Coonghe and Jack Silva- do their utmost to avoid getting caught. A hysterical comedy by American playwright and director Ken Ludwig, Leading Ladies- presented by Silent Hands Productions- promises its audience some non-stop belly laughs as it takes the stage of the Lionel Wendt this week- on June 10, 11 and 12.

A week prior to the performance, the balmy cast has some amusing anecdotes to share; and a casual chat leaves one wondering if each member has done an admirable job of getting into character or if the general madness is second nature.

Actors Gehan Blok and Miranga Ariyaratne, who will take on the roles of Maxine and Stephanie take the objective of exuding feminine charm seriously, as they simper, bat their eyelashes coquettishly, cross their newly shaved legs and make a clumsy attempt to look dainty, while animatedly discussing how much padding could be used for their “chest enhancements.”

“It has been one educational experience,” laughs Miranga, recalling the ‘research’ they had to do, in observing and then imitating women. “Apart from having to learn how to behave like a woman,” he continues reflectively, “there is also the feat of having to manoeuvre your body while tottering around in high heels and crossing your legs all the time. It’s tough.”

“Let’s just say,” adds Gehan, that in the event of Beyonce’s dreams of female world dominance (as per her song Who Rules the World) coming true, I’m prepared!” The concept of cross-dressing and role play has been an entertaining one for the rest of the cast to work with too. “Its incredibly funny, watching two of your male friends metamorphose into women and start acting the clown,” says Bimsara Premaratne who will play the role of Florence’s other niece, Meg. “Meg, who has had a sad childhood and comes from a very staid background, seems to enjoy the craziness brought about by the characters of Maxine and Stephanie.”

“I find it hard to think of anyone else who could have played these particular roles,” muses Dmitri Gunatilake who will play Audrey, Jack Silva’s love interest. “It seems like a scam that in real life, Miranga and Gehan could pull off to perfection!”

Having worked on this production for many weeks, the cast agrees that as much as the audience will be entertained, the experience behind the scenes has been one big laugh from beginning to end. Ludwig’s comedy of identity theft features Neidra Williams, Gehan Blok, Miranga Ariyaratne, Bimsara Premaratne, Dmitri Gunatilake, Chinthaka Fernando, Kanishka Herat, Ivan Saverus, Trionne de Jong and Naresh Anthony. It is directed by Jehan Bastians and Neidra Williams with assistance from Miranga Ariyaratne and Gehan Blok. The production will be handled by Miranga Ariyaratne and Naresh Anthony.

Sponsors of the show include The Sunday Times, The Daily Mirror, Coco Veranda, the Bloom Room and Strategic Partnership Solutions. Tickets priced at Rs. 800 and 500 are available at the Lionel Wendt.

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