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Drama Reading: 'The Royal Family' at Norwalk's Theatre Artists Workshop

They are marvelously self-indulgent, hams to a fault, but totally devoted to each other.

Weston actor Chilton Ryan does not share the hilarity with Sean Hannon, also of Weston, and Emily Hughes of Middletown
Weston actor Chilton Ryan does not share the hilarity with Sean Hannon, also of Weston, and Emily Hughes of Middletown

In another installment of its popular Classic Night series, the Theatre Artists Workshop will present The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber on Fri, and Sat., June 6 and 7 at 8 p.m., and Sun., June 8 at 3 p.m.. Classic Nights are concert readings of outstanding plays from the past presented by the Workshop's accomplished actors, "book in hand."

For theatre goers frustrated by the miniscule size of many contemporary casts, The Royal Family and its ample troupe will come as a refreshing treat.

The play is a thinly veiled look at Drew Barrymore's ancestors, the family that dominated the American stage in the early decades of the 20th century: the Barrymores.

Called the Cavendishes in this immensely comic and often poignant presentation, the play features four generations of the legendary acting family in all their histrionic glory.

And what thespians they are, wedded to the stage and their family legacy upon it! They are marvelously self-indulgent, hams to a fault, but totally devoted to each other. Julie Cavendish, the leading actress of the Broadway stage, describes herself as a "mad woman in a family of lunatics."

Abundant plot lines cross and crackle like live wires. Tony Cavendish, who has left Broadway for the Silver Screen, reappears, chased by a maddened, rejected lover/ leading lady. He has also decked the director of the film off of which he has just walked and he needs to escape to Europe.

Seduced by a civilian marriage proposal, Gwen Cavendish, the youngest, is sure she doesn't want to continue with the demanding stage and the tumultuous life her family leads.

But this exchange between Oscar Wolfe, the family's long-time producer, and Julie Cavendish, Gwen's mother, is ultimately telling. Julie in a moment of her own doubt, says, "There are other things in the world besides the theatre." To which the shrewd Oscar rejoins: "Sure. But not for you."

The Royal Family is the team of Kaufman and Ferber at the top oftheir form. The dialogue is crisp, amusingly biting and the plot is madcap.

What will happen? Will a Cavendish reject the stage for a simpler life? We won't know the answer till the final curtain.

The large cast brings together some of the Workshop's best under the direction of Mark Graham of Stratford: Sean Hannon, Emilie Roberts and Chilton Ryan of Weston; Kimberly Squires and Allan Zeller of Milford; Melody James of Westport; Clayton Wheat of Norwalk; Jo Anne Parady of Fairfield; Frank Piazza of Bridgeport; Katie Sparer of Stratford; Tom Zingarelli of New Haven and Emily Hughes of Middletown.

The Workshop is located at 5 Gregory Blvd., East Norwalk. There is no admission charge for Classic Night presentations and no reservations. For more information call 203-854-6830 or www.taworkshop.org.


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