Actresses blend well in Winterport’s witty ‘Shakers’

Posted March 31, 2009, at 4:57 p.m.

Winterport Open Stage once again has proved itself to be the best little community theater in Greater Bangor. The company’s production of “Shakers,” directed by Dominick Varney, is funny, touching and familiar for any theatergoer who has ever taken in a meal at a nighttime hot spot, or, worse yet, worked in one.

“Shakers” is the name of the bar-restaurant where the story is set. It’s the kind of place where the menus are shaped like cocktail shakers, the under-30 set comes to see and be seen and nobody ever gets carded — it’s Britain after all.

The play centers on the lives of four “Shakers” waitresses and their customers. Throughout the two-act play, the actresses suddenly burst out of their serving-girl characters to portray the often rude, loutish, unruly customers that populate the restaurant-bar.

John Godber and his wife, Jane Thornton, wrote “Shakers” in the early 1980s. It was first performed in 1985 at the Hull Truck Theatre Company, located in the city of Hull in northeastern England where Godber has been artistic director since 1984.

Despite its English setting and the cast’s accents, the hopes and dreams of the four young waitresses resonate in northern Maine.

Adele is a single mother struggling to make ends meet and find child care for her daughter. Carol is a photographer waiting tables until she is recognized as the artist she really is. Nicky is a dancer whose destiny is not in the food service industry and Mel is getting married to Mr. Right, a man she has known one whole month.

Varney keeps the show moving at a fever clip. The director uses the small stage at Wagner Middle School, the home performance space for WOS, to its best advantage. He also realistically keeps his cast maneuvering around the bar, tables, chairs and each other. The action only slows down when each of the women delivers a monologue.

The cast members — Brianne Beck, Jenny Hart, Emily Gammon and Lacey Martin — are so evenly matched that it is at times difficult to remember who is playing which part. They create a true ensemble where no one actress outshines or upstages the other yet each waitress portrayed is uniquely individual.

Although the cast members give fine turns as the waitresses and as a quartet of women friends out for a drunken night on the town, it is as the men that they truly shine. Using only bar towels and the occasional scarf, the actresses transform themselves into the testosterone- and alcohol-fueled regulars that taunt them every weekend. The result is hilarious.

“Shakers” is a wonderful antidote to Maine’s mud-seasonal transition into spring. It is a witty, funny, raucous, quality production but the content and the language are adult. Theatergoers who tune out cable televisions shows like “The Sopranos” and “Deadwood” might find “Shakers” too vulgar for their tastes. Ex-waitresses and barmaids, however, most likely will find the play hilariously familiar.

IF YOU GO

What: “Shakers,” by John Godber and Jane Thornton

Who: Winterport Open Stage

Where: Wagner Middle School, Winterport

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

How much: $8 adults; $5 students

What else: www.winterportopenstage.com

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