If laughter has healing properties, then ailing people should make tracks to The Ritz Players' production of "Leading Ladies." The comedy by Ken Ludwig uses nearly every comic device available and cobbles them together for two hours of laughter.
The talented ensemble of actors from Tiffin, Sycamore, and Bucyrus get a workout just changing costumes and making their way through the elaborate, two-story set.
The setting is 1958 in York, Pa., mostly in the home of the aging Florence and her young niece, Meg Snider. Anna Mae Terrealut and Beth Koop, respectively, portray the two ladies.
The male leads are Ian Pahl and Tracy McAdams as Leo Clack and Jack Gable, two Shakespearian actors whose careers have been reduced to entertaining on the Moose Lodge circuit in Amish country. Their skit is a hodge-podge of quotes from the Bard's plays, all jumbled together.
When they perform at the Shrewsberry lodge, they can't compete with the buffet dinner scheduled to be served after the show. Dejected, the two men exhaust their funds on train tickets to put that town behind them.
While they are debating what to do next, Leo reads a copy of the London Times and spots a personal ad from an elderly American lady looking for her sister's two children, Max and Steve. She has lost contact with them and wants to find them before she dies. If they can make contact with her, she plans to leave them each $1 million.
Leo tries to convince Jack the two of them could stand in for the heirs and claim the inheritance for themselves. After all, they are actors.
Jack dismisses the idea, but then he is distracted as an attractive but ditsy young woman comes roller skating down the aisle and makes conversation with them. Jack develops an instant crush on the girl, who introduces herself as Audrey (Candace Pahl) from York.
It is a lightbulb moment for Leo, who immediately pumps her for information. She knows Florence, the woman who placed the ad, and her niece, Meg. Audrey has heard Florence died earlier that day without finding her two nieces, Maxine and Stephanie, who like to go by their nicknames.
Other important tidbits - Stephanie is deaf and dumb, and Maxine is an actress.
After Audrey leaves, Leo rummages through their stage costumes and pulls out dresses they could use to disguise themselves. If men could play women in Shakespeare's time, they certainly could do it now.
Jack is relegated to the silent Stephanie persona while Leo is to portray the dramatic Maxine. They send a telegram to notify the family they are on their way.
When Meg learns her cousins have surfaced, she is ecstatic, but her fiance, the Rev. Duncan Wooley (Mike Schoeppner), is suspicious. He warns Meg the two visitors could be frauds.
Besides, he was hoping to use Aunt Florence's inheritance to start a foundation to help the needy.
Meg says the money does not mean as much to her as finding her long-lost cousins.
As Dr. Meyers and his son, Butch (Adams Engle and Scott Cook), hang a banner to welcome the guests, the audience learns Butch is engaged to Audrey.
The doctor advises Butch to find himself a "rich girl" with some brains, more like Meg. As it turns out, the doc is somewhat short on intelligence himself. Although he has declared Florence deceased, she stumbles out of her room in her night clothes.
Having heard her nieces are coming, she is not about to die.
When the impostors do arrive, Meg takes a liking to both of them and introduces everyone, including Florence.
The actors struggle to conceal their shock the elderly woman is not dead after all.
Jack wants to get out while they still can, but Leo refuses. He has fallen in love with Meg on first glance and is not anxious to give up the chance to be near her. Thus, the stage is set for a roller coaster of events and emotions as Leo and Jack try to maintain the illusion they have set in motion and Duncan launches an investigation.
Directing is Jim Cook of Sycamore, assisted by Nate Morton of Tiffin. Morton lends his voice as master of ceremonies at the lodge and as train conductor.
Laura Warren is the choreographer.
The crew, all from Tiffin, includes Dinah Adams, Gabrielle Mitchell, Sandy Kimmel, Jim Puffenberger and Randy Halen.
The program does not list the costumer, but the (real) women were beautifully attired. Stephanie and Maxine's garments enhanced their comic characters.
The music and sound effects came in at the right times, as did the lighting. Two early scenes especially depend on the crew to keep set pieces in place. Patrons at the dress rehearsal were treated to a broken sofa leg that gave the cast extra challenges (and a few extra lines), as sometimes happens in live theater.
Tickets are $11 for adults and $7 for students. Go to www.ritztheatre.org, stop at the box office, 30 S. Washington St., or call (419) 448-8544.