The Ladyslipper: A Tale of Love and Succession

Jebb (Mark Dean), Hank (Jay Sefton), Lana (Madelein Maggio), Jimmy (Jay Torres) and Trish (Chelsea Nectow) in The Ladyslipper at the Majestic Theater through March 25.
Jebb (Mark Dean), Hank (Jay Sefton), Lana (Madeleine Maggio), Jimmy (Jay Torres) and Trish (Chelsea Nectow) in The Ladyslipper at the Majestic Theater through March 25.

Tonight the Majestic Theater’s Producing Director Danny Eaton watched one of his own plays come to life. The Ladyslipper is the neighborhood tavern that until recently was owned by the late Rosie, whose remains sit in an urn above the bar.  We arrive at this comfortable watering hole at a key juncture. Rosie’s daughter Lana has arrived from England to bring on a new generation of leadership, or close the place down.

Nobody knows yet how it will go, but then we meet the local lawyer who is working with Lana on the sale, the vivacious and attractive Trish, (Chelsie Nectow) we feel hopeful.  She’s not talking Lana into selling the real estate to a hedge fund, no, Rosie in her will seems to have worked out something that will make even the bar’s two ragtag employees happy. ladyslipper5

These are bartender Hank (Jay Sefton), an appealing character with a bit of a Delaware accent, throwing out funny lines and over reacting comedically to the intimidating lawyer and the attractive woman Lana with the accent.  Hank gets a kick out of it all, and Sefton’s pratfalls and physical comedy got lots of laughs.

His sidekick and cook, Jebb (Mark Dean) reminded me of our old grumpy Coach Belichick in his demeanor, gruff and lovable as things that are happening go right over his head.  Lots of things are happening that these two don’t understand, and however improbable they might seem, I was reminded not to give away the plot. ladyslipper3

We meet Trish’s fiancee, Jimmy, and he seems to be rushing his partner, kind of a bossy guy.  He is in the investment business, so you never know when a potential client might pop up, and he’s ready.

Right away I didn’t like Jimmy, in contrast with Trish who seemed warm and personable throughout.  The conflict comes fast and throws a wrench into Jimmy and Trish’s plans.

Playwright Eaton’s way of advancing the plot was an interesting twist, he had Lana read the letter that Rosie had left for her but we hear her voice from heaven, reading her own words from on high.

It becomes clear that this is no ordinary bar, not a piece of property to be disposed of, but the very heart of the neighborhood and the people all have a stake in what she decides.

The plot is compressed, with the whole play taking place only over the course of about a week. In this time we watch massive transformation and in some ways, improbable actions that might have taken months to develop but here they just happen. Soon we meet Trish’s mother, Estelle, (Cate Damon) who I recognized from her role in New Century Theatre’s 2014 production of Other Desert Cities. Estelle is upbeat about everything, but when she learns the news that will soon catapault the plot in a new direction, she has the reaction that makes it all ok.  Lana, (Madeleine Maggio) was played by an actor with much Shakespeare experience, and she carries off the accent and the mannerisms convincingly.

I recognized Trish (Chelsea Nectow) from her funny turn as Alice in Bright Star, the Majestic production last September based on Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s novel.  Her singing then was memorable, here, she turns on the charm to portray a character who was willing to upend her life to follow her heart.

Despite the Ladyslipper being that kind of old-fashioned bar where hardly anyone spends time anymore, the relationships here and the acceptance of feelings, no matter how jarring, is a decidedly modern way of viewing the world. You might say that the play ends with everyone getting their cake and eating it too.

The Ladyslipper, by Danny Eaton, Directed by James Warwick. Majestic Theater, West Springfield Feb 15-March 25, 2024.