Just when you were about to write off the current season as being without any new material of note – depending solidly on revivals—along comes a terrific, frisky, sassy farce from a surprising source. “Slippery as Sin” which has opened at Trenton’s Passage Theatre for a three-week run is “a new comic thriller” that will have you roaring with helpless laughter and leaping to your feet at the final curtain to reward inventiveness and pure pleasure.
Surprising because the playwright, David Lee White runs Passage Theatre’s community programs and thus this work has inched its way through the minor leagues before getting a full-stage outing.
Director Adam Immerwahr is a minor functionary at McCarter where he handles its lab series. In other words, while McCarter commissions new plays by recognized playwrights, such as the current “Are You There, McPhee?” by John Guare, some of its own staff is having to plow the fields of the hinterlands for success.
In this farce, we are back in the 1930s, on an island cut off from the mainland by a nasty storm. There is a murder, perhaps the first of many, and a detective steps forward to solve the crime. You remember the situation from dozens of plots just like it. But playwright White starts right out with a surprise: the detective, Dorrington, introduces himself just as the lights come up. Almost immediately as he and the butler, Trent Blanton (a Rider University professor, yet) try to move the body (the very large Brian Anthony Wilson) and have some trouble. Finally the detective commands, “roll him,” and we know we are in for some fun.
Greg Wood, a fine regional actor plays Dorrington with a mixture of confident bravado and sinister syrup. Passage’s Artistic Director, June Ballinger, plays the mansion owner with an extra dollop of aristocratic charm and steals entire scenes. Justin Jain and Joniece Abbott Pratt play the about-to-be-married youngsters.
Something must be said about the set design by Jeff Van Velsor, a local designer whose work has appeared at McCarter and Westminster Choir College. He also designs regularly for Princeton Day School. Here his set is a stunning 1930s manor house, island version, functionally very well suited and with plenty of help on storm issues by Paul Kilsdonk and Nick Kourtides on lights.
“Slippery As Sin” continues at Passage Theatre, 205 E. Front St., Trenton through June 3. Tickets at $25.00-$30.00 (609) 293-0766.