Deidra Langstaff, left, is "Suzannah" and Alicia Croxton plays "Beth" during a rehearsal for Theatre Albany's production of "Til Beth Do Us Part."
Albany Striving to get ahead in the corporate world often leads to quite a bit of funny business.
Sometimes, it’s really funny business.
And that’s the way it works out in Theatre Albany’s production of the comedy “’Til Beth Do Us Part.” Curtain for the show, the second run of the 2011-12 season, goes up Thursday evening at 8 p.m. at the theater, 514 Pine Ave.
The ingredients for this play about a woman who hopes to rise in the ranks of a British chocolate company are simple: Take a workaholic wife, add a big dose of an inattentive, self-centered husband, mix in a couple of well-meaning friends who have divorced each other, sprinkle in a demanding boss and then throw in a conniving new assistant with huge ambition.
Mix it all up, let it boil over on stage and you have something guaranteed to satisfy your appetite for comedy.
“The situation is set up where the wife (Suzannah Hayden, played by Diedra Langstaff) is there, talking on one of those headsets to her boss, who’s Celia Carmichael (Kathleen Stroup) of Carmichael Chocolates, which is situated in England,” theater Director Mark Costello said Tuesday before rehearsal. “As she’s doing it, she’s picking up all her husband’s clothes off the living room floor, the newspapers, and so forth.”
As soon as Suzannah leaves the room, in comes her husband, Gibby (Doug Lorber), who promptly makes a mess of the room she’s just straightened up. “He walks in and immediately drops trou, sits in his boxer shorts, picks up the newspaper, throws the pieces on the floor,” Costello said. “They have a whole discussion about the fact that she’s so busy, he’s got to do more of the work. He’s one of these guys who always says he will, but he hasn’t yet.”
“Not a stretch to play a slackard husband, because I do that so well naturally,” Lorber quipped before Tuesday’s rehearsal, adding he shares Gibby’s love for golf. “It’s pretty funny, mostly because you get to see me in my underwear. So it’s pretty funny. We’ll be wearing boxers and briefs. Just to be safe.”
Langstaff is returning to the Theatre Albany stage after a 10-year absence. She said she felt the timing was right to get back in front of the lights.
“Basically I think the reason Mark wanted me to do this part is because Suzannah is like Deidra in real life,” Langstaff said. “She is a workaholic working her way up the corporate ladder.”
Read more about Diedra Langstaff in today’s “On Stage With ...” interview.
Suzannah finds a sympathetic ear in her good friend, Margo James (Suzanne Unger), who has divorced her own slacker husband, Hank Russell (Steve Halstead). Margo’s a woman who can come up with a solution. In her divorce settlement with Hank, he was awarded his beloved Mustang, which Margo is returning to him — one piece at a time. Later in the play, Hank shows what lengths he’ll go to reunite with his great love — not Margo, his car.
Margo’s solution to Suzannah’s problem? An assistant. And she happens to know the perfect one.
“We meet Beth (Bailey, played by Alicia Croxton), who’s from Biloxi, Miss.,” Costello said. “She’s a real go-getter and everything. She’s cleaned the house, fixed the plumbing areas, patched the things in the bathroom, throws away wood — he (Gibby) says he’s going to build a doghouse, but the dog died 15 years ago. Through the course of this, he (Gibby) gets the feeling Beth’s trying to get rid of him, but then he gets the sense when he’s talking to one of his friends that, no, Beth is after his wife’s job.”
And while Gibby might be inattentive to his wife’s need for help around the house, he still cares deeply for her.
“A lot of the characters I’ve played in the past have been these large, boisterous people, and this guy’s a little more sedate, a little more subdued,” Lorber said. “But he’ll fight for his wife. He loves his wife. Anything to keep her and make sure she gets her just desserts.”
The situation is further complicated when Celia Carmichael decides to travel across the Atlantic to Cincinnati to meet with Suzannah, who plans a dinner for her boss.
“The whole thing is an uproar, and everyone’s excited,” Costello said. “The closer it comes to her visit, Beth starts pushing a little more, doing a little extra, so there’s definitely a sense that she’s after Suzannah’s job and is going to undercut her with the boss.”
At the last minute, Carmichael cancels the trip. Suzannah, Margo and Gibby enlist the help of a reluctant replacement to impersonate Carmichael “so they can flush out what a backstabbing conniver” Beth is, Costello said.
Complicating the issue as a last-minute decision by Carmichael to make the trip after all, leading to “lots of confusion,” Costello said. “They’re all in and out of the closets, in and out of the doors and the whole thing, it’s all settled wonderfully well.”
“My line,” Lorber added, “is, ‘We have one Celia Carmichael too many.’”
“’Til Beth Do Us Part,” written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, opens Thursday, with the curtain going up at 8 p.m. Other show times for the run are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and on Oct. 6-8. Matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 2 and 9.