Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot centers on Susan, who co-owns an antique shop with her brother Steve. Susan has recently been diagnosed with cancer and, since she doesn't want to suffer the way her mother did, she hires a hit man to knock her off. The quick death will also mean that Steve can collect on her life insurance policy and attend his dream school of Stanford. However, when Susan is told the hit man's name is Sam and that they'll meet up at the antique store to arrange the details, Susan mistakenly confuses a patron who comes into the shop, who is also named Sam, with the hit man, and they find a spark of romance between them. It turns out the real hit man is actually a young hit woman named Samantha, Samm for short, and that this will be her first real hit. Samm also keeps leaving her bag with her phone in random places which makes communicating important information with her a challenge. Needless to say, with romance and continual confusion, plans for the hit don't exactly go as planned.
Buckley has crafted a fun and interesting comedy. However, while the characters are original and intriguing, and there are some fun twists in the show, it is fairly predictable. You will know almost immediately (as soon as the four main characters meet) how the play will end, even if you aren't certain how it will arrive at that ending. Fortunately, Buckley's dialogue is fresh and fun and, even if the plotting isn't quite on a level of a well-written farce or screwball comedy, there are numerous laughs and an assortment of odd supporting characters, which keeps the play original and humorous.
Tim Dietlein's direction is fresh and sharp, and his cast are all gifted comics who derive laughs with good comic timing while also creating realistic characters. Alaina Beauloye has appeared in dozens of Hale productions and she is wonderful as Susan. Beauloye is warm but also matter of fact as this woman who has made a decision to end her life, and over the course of the play, as situations change, Beauloye's ability to depict Susan's frantic and energetic nature provides plenty of humor.
Hannah Brudnock delivers a winning performance as Samm, a young woman who hasn't quite found her place in life but thinks that going into the family business may be a good career choice. Brudnock is extremely charming and utterly endearing as the carefree and nonchalant young woman. Adam Guinn is appropriately warm and captivating as Sam, the man who falls for Susan, and Tyler James Saccoman is fun and humorous as Steve. Karl Haas is hilarious as Samm's uncle Slavo, and J. Clay Lawson is very good as Siposh, who translates every word Slavo says since he doesn't speak English. In smaller roles, Chuck Green and Sarah Davidson are great as a series of wacky and eccentric characters who come into the antique shop.
McKenna Carpenter's set design is excellent, with an eclectic assortment of tchotchkes and antiques that give the set an authentic, lived-in feeling. The costumes by Tia Hawkes are character appropriate and Dietlein's lighting is bright and warm. The sound design by Jackson Zyontz ensures every line of dialogue is clear, and there are also some great music choices for the scene changes.
While The Hit may suffer from a fairly formulaic and predictable plot and romances that are quickly realized, with a wonderful cast and superb creative elements, Hale's production is charming, comical, and deliciously engaging.
The Hit runs through February 13, 2023, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Producers & Casting Directors: David and Corrin Dietlein