The Neuse Little Theatre’s production of Father Knows Best is a fine slice of Americana for two reasons. First, it is a breezy sitcom-like comedy about a middle-class family in middle America. Secondly, it is a great example of what local theater in America is all about.
Father Knows Best is a stage play, based on a radio show from the 1950’s by Edward James, who continued the write for the show when it migrated to television in 1954. The stage version was adapted by Kristin Sergel.
The titular “Father” is Jim Anderson, played by Eric House, a veteran of the Neuse Little Theatre. He is an insurance salesman and a family man, with a wife and three children. You may recall that Jim and his wife Margaret were played in the 1954-60 television version by Robert Young and Jane Wyatt.
Anthony Pender directs this breezy family farce that includes a boatload of sitcom misadventures. Oldest daughter Betty (Rebecca Korzelius) is dealing with her first crush. Son Bud (Alex Roberson) is stymied by math, sports, and his own romantic demons. Youngest son Charlie (Lucas D’Entremont) has his hands full just being a kid.
Father deals with comic misunderstandings and parental pitfalls, while wife Margaret (Julia Kapke) tries to hold down the fort while juggling a broken washing machine, the snooty Garden Club women and a never-ending stream of unexpected houseguests.
I recommend this show as a fun night out for any members of the family. Neuse Little Theatre has a lovely venue in downtown Smithfield, NC: “The Hut” (the former American Legion Hut). It’s a bit of a drive from the Triangle, but worth the trip. The playhouse has a rustic, log-cabin feel, with about 100 comfortable seats, all with a great view of the stage and well-designed set. The price is right at barely more than a movie.
The best part of this show is the sharp performances, especially by the younger cast members. The dialogue is well paced and snappy.
There were a few minor issues. The play was a bit short to have an intermission. I also felt that the program could have provided a bit more information about the show itself. My biggest nitpick was with the choice to set the play in the present. Most of the story is transferable to the present, but some of the storylines seem dated. I think the show may have lost some of its charm by taking it out of the Fifties.
I cannot say that this will be the most memorable experience you have in the theater, but I feel this is a worthwhile investment of your time and entertainment dollar.
Robert O’Connell is new to the Triangle, but not to the stage. As a playwright, he has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has an MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O’Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.