‘Broad’ comedy: Dueling divas do their worst

‘Suite Surrender’ opens at the State Theater Saturday for the first of nine performances
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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“Suite Surrender”
Who: Placer Community Theater
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9.
Where: Historic State Theater, 985 Lincoln Way in Auburn
Cost: $22 advance, $18 matinee, seniors, children; $25 at the door (includes refreshments with the cast after the performance).

Nine characters, five doors, one room. Those are the numbers. Oh wait. Throw in two oversized egos and one formidable feud and you’ve got the recipe for laughs.
“The set is a character itself, the center of all the mischief,” said director Elyjah Wilbur, of the single-set, one-act play “Suite Surrender.”
Wilbur, a Placer grad who grew up in Auburn, was pleasantly surprised at the amount of talent he had to choose from for only nine roles.
“It led to some difficult decisions,” he said.
The play revolves around two aging divas who arrive in Palm Beach to put on a USO show. The year is 1942 and the play itself is a throwback to the screwball comedies of that era. Their longstanding hatred of each other is well known to the hotel staff that has accidentally booked them into the same suite.
“It’s a show for all ages,” Wilbur said. “There’s continuous action and energy and pacing; the timing will make people laugh, it’s absolute chaos.”
Eliza Webb plays Athena Sinclair, one of the aforementioned divas.
“There is a lot of physical comedy and slapstick in it,” she said. “I studied physical theater, which is a good thing, because I have to hit somebody with a door.”
Her character is talented, but sexual, and relies on that to get her way.
“Aging, that’s a huge issue with these characters, they know they are losing it,” Webb said, who pegged Madonna as the modern-day equivalent of Athena.
The tenth member of the cast is a pampered lap dog, a role that might have elicited the most laughs during rehearsals.
“Every week we had something different,” Webb said. “A real dog – he just peed everywhere – a lemur, a stuffed dog, a pillow …”
Budget restraints prohibited hiring an animal trainer, so a stuffed dog may have to do for the show’s nine-performance run. But if all goes as planned, the audience should be laughing too often to notice.
“It’s harder to direct comedy,” Wilbur said. “Not everyone thinks everything is funny. With a drama, when you attain absolute silence, that’s a good thing. With comedy, not so good.”
One frazzled hotel manager, two put-upon personal assistants, a nosy reporter, a society matron and two bellhops round out the cast. It’s a farce fit for all ages and there are nine chances to see it, beginning Saturday, Jan. 26.