Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Kiss and Tell
Hale Centre Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent reviews of The Seth Rudetsky Series Starring Audra McDonald, Educating Rita and Holmes and Watson

Bowen Maxson and Mae Soelberg
Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw
Hale Center Theatre's production of F. Hugh Herbert's 1943 comedy Kiss and Tell is a delightful and nostalgic reminder of the charm and humor of 1940s America. Set against the backdrop of a quaint, small town, the play follows the misadventures and misunderstandings that young love and gossip can bring. Under Jere Van Patten's adept direction, the large, excellent cast navigates the comedic nuances and heartfelt moments with precision, and the end result is a comedy full of charm and laughs.

Set entirely on the Archer family's back porch, the plot revolves around Corliss Archer, a spirited teenager on the cusp of her sixteenth birthday who yearns for maturity. The plot begins shortly after a fateful incident at the USO bazaar, where Corliss and her best friend Mildred Pringle attempted to boost sales by selling kisses for a dollar. Corliss' parents believe Mildred is a bad influence for their daughter, while the Pringles hold Corliss responsible. The ensuing chaos is fueled by a series of comical mishaps, misunderstandings, and rampant gossip, escalating the feud between the two families. Against the backdrop of wartime America, the play captures the innocence and mischief of adolescence while exploring themes of friendship, family, and the absurdity of rumor mills in close-knit communities.

Under Jere Van Patten's bright and polished direction, the large ensemble cast skillfully navigates the delicate balance between comedy and drama while effectively capturing the nuances of everyday family life in small-town America in the 1940s. Mae Soelberg shines as the vivacious Corliss Archer, infusing her character with youthful exuberance and endearing virtue. Soelberg's flirtatious nature, lively line delivery, and wide-eyed exuberance clearly define this innocent young girl who yearns to be treated as a sophisticated adult. With a high-pitched voice and bright comic timing, Bowen Maxson delivers a delightful performance as the bumbling Dexter, capturing the awkward charm of the lovestruck neighbor who has a serious crush on Corliss. Soelberg and Maxson's performances capture the innocence of youth and the realism of two teens who've known each other for years.

Tyler Brignone and Virginia Olivieri excel as Corliss' beleaguered parents, balancing humor and sincerity effortlessly. Brignone's sharp comic timing and expressive delivery combine to effectively portray the frenetic energy of a father in a frenzied state of agitation. In contrast, Olivieri brings a calm resolve to her role, masterfully embodying the steadfast matriarch determined to keep her family together amidst the turmoil. Her quiet strength and unwavering composure serve as a poignant counterpoint to Brignone's animated outbursts, creating an authentic couple who are doing the best they can to navigate the highs and lows of parenthood.

Emma Wind and Kale Burr impress as Mildred Pringle and Corliss' older brother Lieutenant Lenny Archer, respectively, creating a realistic young couple in love. Allyson Van Patten's even-measured portrayal of Mildred's mother Dorothy Pringle is a standout, showcasing a perfect blend of wit and resolve, as Dorothy is determined to get the upper hand in the feud. With a sure-footed stage presence and excellent comic timing, Max Nevarez is superb as the mischievous, street-smart, smooth-talking Raymond Pringle, while Truman Regard-Whipple embodies the Private whom Corliss attempts to romance with ease. With catty comedy skills, Julie Yolles brings a wonderful, no-sense demeanor to Louise, the Archer's maid, and Tyler Maxson, Alice Johnson, J. Clay Lawson, and Jere Van Patten round out the cast in rich, comical performances.

While the first act takes a while to introduce the large cast of characters and set the plot in motion, the production's second act, skillfully directed by Van Patten, delivers an abundance of laughs and charming moments from Herbert's witty script. McKenna Carpenter's set design, Jacki Marin's period costumes, and Cambrian James' authentic wig and makeup designs enhance the authentic 1940s ambiance which nostalgically immerses the audience in the era.

With its eccentric characters and whirlwind of confusion and comedic situations, Kiss and Tell is a delightful throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1940s. With an excellent cast and wonderful direction, Hale Center Theatre's production is a nostalgic journey filled with humor and heartwarming moments, offering a charming escape to a bygone era.

Kiss and Tell runs through May 21, 2024, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. Performances on Monday and Tuesdays. For tickets and information, please visit or call 480-497-1181

Written by F. Hugh Herbert
Producers and Casting Directors: David and Corrin Dietlein
Director: Jere Van Patten
Costume Shop Manager: Brielle Hawkes
Costume Designer: Jacki Marin
Scenic Designer / Head Scenic Artist: McKenna Carpenter
Lighting Designer: Tim Dietlein
Props Mistress / Scenic Painter: Liz De La Torre
Scenic Painter: Brittany Arwine
Carpenters: Dan Rodriguez and Jim Creaser
Costume Assistants: Toni Anne Smith and Molly Hill
Wigs and Makeup: Cambrian James
Production Stage Manager: Kaitlyn Grace
Performance Stage Manager: Laila Lebsock
Audio Engineer: Ally Perparos
Production Assistant: Jamie Fleischer

Harry Archer: Tyler Brignone
Janet Archer: Virginia Olivieri
Lenny Archer: Kale Burr
Corliss Archer: Mae Soelberg
Uncle George: J. Clay Lawson
Louise: Julie Yolles
Bill Franklin: Tyler Maxson
Mary Franklin: Alice Johnson
Dexter Franklin: Bowen Maxson
Robert Pringle / Mr. Willard: Jere Van Patten
Dorothy Pringle: Allyson Van Patten
Mildred Pringle: Emma Wind
Raymond Pringle: Max Nevarez
Private Earhart: Truman Regard-Whipple