I smiled all the way through Mrs. Mannerly, grinning from ear to ear. Typically, I'm a tough customer when it comes to comedy. Friends have pointed out I have a British sense of humor, rolling my eyes at what gets Americans giggling. That was not the case here, as Mrs. Mannerly was chocked full of witty, clever remarks and period appropriate punchlines.
Mrs. Mannerly is a regional premiere and runs through October at Ensemble Theatre. Set in 1967, the play features ten-year-old Jeffery attending manners class in rural Steubenville, Ohio. This polite little boy is portrayed by 30-something Raymond McAnally, clad in knicker shorts, knee-high socks, and an oversized suit coat. That image alone is enough to make you smirk.
Ensemble veteran Dale Hodges brings to life Mrs. Mannerly, a demanding teacher who has never had a student achieve a perfect score in her etiquette class. When young Jeffery discovers his teacher's secret past, he becomes
determined to be the first to achieve this feat.
Throughout this 90-minute play, McAnally transforms into six of the show's seven characters within seconds of another; each a stereotypical classmate that we can all relate to:
- The boy with the constantly runny nose
- The brown-noser
- The socially-awkward geek
- The apathetic, angsty girl
- The promiscuous girl
- Jeffery, the bookworm who hates sports
Hodges recreates that fearsome, intimidating teacher and smoothly transitions the evolution of her character throughout the play, turning a one-dimensional role into a personality that tugs at the heartstrings.