Have you ever been to a community board meeting and had no idea what was going on? If so you'll feel at home during the first scene of Small Potatoes. Only the commanding presence of veteran actor Lee Moore, playing Senator Standish, reminds us that we are indeed in the theater as he sets the wheels in motion for the story: An inspector general is coming to visit the small, highly corrupt town, and might nail them all as payback for a speeding incident
The townsfolk--including the mayor, banker, fire chief, judge, and stereotypically dim-witted small town chief of police--proceed to mistake the first two out-of-town visitors, a self-absorbed actress and her stage manager, as the inspector general and a traveling companion. The comic possibilities are rich.
The downfall of Small Potatoes lies not in the play's premise, but in a script suffused with exposition. The audience learns a textbook full of information from dialogue recounting numerous episodes of wrongdoing--while witnessing none of them. As a whole, the ever-expanding list of the town's multitude of malfeasance (graft, insurance fraud, illegal aliens, underage drinking) is indeed small potatoes. It's almost tantamount to a murder mystery in which two-dozen people are threatened, but no one is murdered. Action centers around meetings where the increasingly paranoid town members plot their next moves, most of which evolve into repeated scenes of trying to pay off the alleged Inspector General.
In one brief comic scene Judge Waterman (played by Bob Adrian) makes a half-hearted attempt at seducing a figure hiding under the sheets, whom he thinks is actress Isabelle Rose (played by Carla Bianchi). With skewed comic timing, however, Victor/Victoria it's not. If playwright Bob Rogers had, perhaps, selected a few of the town's many rotten potatoes and illustrated them by having the purported inspector general land in the middle, the comedic possibilities may spurred beyond the sparkling spud.
It is clear that playwright Bob Rogers, who has based the work on The Inspector General, has done his homework in the area of present day political ineptitude. He has, however, also neglected to provide the audience with any reason to embrace any one of the townspeople. Not one of them displays any sense of guilt or remorse about what they've done. We don't witness any growth or evolution from the slimeballs we first meet at their council meeting/poker game to the slimeballs we see panicking at the final meeting.
While the ten member ensemble cast do an admirable job in their portrayal of a town caught up in concealing their own sins, there is an ongoing sense, watching the performers go through bulky dialogue, that they are almost ready to say "I'm talking way too much." Even the actress and her cohort, initially mistreated when they arrive in the town (they later have the town bending over backwards for them), engender little sympathy. She's narcissistic, despite one scene of self-realization, and he simply wants what is rightfully due him.
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